Questions for the First Oncology Visit
Jul 26, 2011 by April
One of the things my doctors discussed with me before I started
chemotherapy was how likely it was my cancer would recur. With my
particular type, uterine papillary serous carcinoma, I was told the
recurrence percentage was between 40 and 50 percent if I didn't have
chemo or radiation. If I chose treatment, it would be for curative
purposes, dropping the possible recurrence rate to under 5 percent. The
other thing they told me was that if I didn't have treatment and I did
have a recurrence, I would be looking at palliative options versus
Palliative, in general terms, refers to care that alleviates symptoms,
whether or not there is hope of cure. It's a focus on quality of life.
Making patients comfortable. Curative means able to heal or cure. Big
I've been thinking about the types of things I believe patients should
ask at their first oncology appointments, and why. The why is easy: no
one cares about your health or treatment more than you and your loved
ones. Your healthcare providers are, in a roundabout way, your
employees. They're doing a job. Here are the questions I'd ask:
- What is my specific type of cancer?
- What is the stage (a description of the extent the cancer has spread)?
- What is the grade (a measure of how aggressive the cancer is)?
- What treatment are you proposing?
- Is the treatment curative, or simply palliative?
- If chemo is proposed, what specific drug regimen?
The rest of your questions will likely be based on the answers you get to these inquiries.
I was lucky to hear my doctors were proposing chemo as a curative
option. I don't take it for granted. It's one of the reasons I founded
Chemo Cargo. Really, the main reason.