What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor?

If you are in the midst of dealing with pancreatic cancer, you have a lot on your mind and you may have difficulty knowing where to start. Since every patient has a unique case, your doctors are your best source of information and you have every right to ask them questions.

Heather Sentkoski, a clinical social worker who was here at Johns Hopkins, compiled the following list of suggestions as a guideline.

If you are meeting with a surgeon or oncologist for the first time

Do not be afraid to ask:

  • Have you ever treated a pancreatic cancer patient before?
  • How many surgeries have you performed on pancreatic cancer patients?
  • What has the general outcome of those patients been?
  • Where were you trained? (medical school, residency)
  • Which surgeons did you study under?

At any point in the relationship with your physican, you have the right to ask

  • What is the diagnosis?
  • What treatments are recommended?
  • Are there other treatment options available that you do not provide (i.e. clinical trials, drugs available elsewhere that you do not have access to)?
  • What are the likely benefits of each treatment?
  • What are the side effects of each treatment?
  • What are the medications being prescribed? What are they for? What are their side effects?
  • Are there any clinical drug trials I can participate in?
  • How should I expect to feel during the treatment(s)?
  • What are the risks of the treatment(s)?
  • Will my diet need to be changed or modified?
  • Will I need to take enzymes, vitamins, etc?
  • Are there other things I can do to improve the quality of my life?

Do not forget to ask about the things that are most important to you

  • How will this affect my ability to work?
  • Can this treatment be done as an outpatient so that I can spend more time at home with family?
  • Will I have any physical limitations?
  • How will my current lifestyle be changed?
  • Do you have suggestions on what I should tell my family?

Finally - and most importantly - ask these questions of YOURSELF

  • Does my doctor appear interested in answering my questions?
  • Or, does my doctor look annoyed when I ask questions, like I'm doubting their expertise or I am holding them up?
  • Do I feel that my doctor cares about my medical outcome?
  • Have I told my family everything that I should? Remember Ira Byock's The Four Things That Matter Most. The four things we should tell our loved ones: “Please forgive me,” “I forgive you,” “Thank you,” and “I love you”

If you are uncomfortable with the results of some of these questions, you may want to re-evaluate your choice of physician or get a second opinion.