Questions to ask your Healthcare Team

The amount of information you receive from healthcare professionals after diagnosis may be overwhelming. Preparing in advance for meetings with the doctor and other members of the healthcare team can help you gather useful information and better understand your diagnosis and treatment options.

It can be very helpful to bring another person along to medical appointments. A friend or family member can be supportive, provide an extra set of ears, and ensure that all questions are answered. Recording the meeting is a good way to avoid missing important information. Ask the doctor for permission to record the meeting.

The following is a suggested list of questions to ask the doctor and other healthcare professionals. Click here for a printer friendly pdf version of this information.

Questions about a doctor’s experience:

  • Have you ever cared for other people with pancreatic cancer?
  • How many people with pancreatic cancer do you care for each year?
  • What have been the results for these people? Did they have a similar diagnosis?
  • Do you work with a multidisciplinary team? Who are they and what are their specialties?

Questions about your diagnosis:

  • What is my diagnosis? What type of pancreatic cancer do I have?
  • What is the stage of my cancer? What does this mean?
  • What are the symptoms that I may experience from the cancer?

Questions about treatment:

  • What treatment(s) do you recommend? Why?
  • Are there any clinical trials available to me at this hospital? At other local hospitals?
  • What are the potential benefits and risks of each of my treatment options?
  • Please explain the medications being prescribed for me. What does each one do?
  • What type of blood tests, scans or other tests will I need during my treatment? How often?

Questions about surgery:

  • Can my tumor be removed through surgery? Why or why not?
  • How many pancreatic surgeries have you performed? How many in the past year?
  • How many pancreatic surgeries are performed at your hospital every year?
  • What are the possible complications of pancreatic surgery?
  • How long should I expect to be in the hospital recovering after pancreatic surgery?
  • Would you be able to recommend another experienced surgeon for a second opinion?

Questions about side effects:

  • What are the potential side effects of my treatment options? How likely are they to occur?
  • How can I expect to feel during the treatment?
  • What medication(s) will be prescribed to help manage my side effects? Do these medications have additional side effects?
  • How can I contact you in case of an emergency or if I have further concerns?

Questions about diet:

  • Do I need to change or modify my diet?
  • Do you have a dietitian or nutritionist that you recommend?
  • Will I need to take pancreatic enzymes or vitamins? If so, how often?

Questions about social concerns:

  • Will my ability to work, travel or drive be affected?
  • Will I need to spend time in the hospital?
  • Will I have physical limitations?
  • Are there any lifestyle changes I should make?
  • What support programs are available for me and my family?
  • Who can I speak with about my financial and/or insurance concerns?
  • Who can help me navigate the medical system? Is there an oncology social worker or patient navigator available at this hospital?

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Does the doctor seem interested in my questions? Is he/she easy to communicate with?
  • Did I get enough time with the doctor to answer all of my questions?
  • Do I feel comfortable with the doctor and his/her recommendations?
  • Will I be able to reach him/her if I have any questions or concerns while being treated?
  • Is the doctor open to me seeking a second opinion?

Even if you feel comfortable with the answers a doctor gives, it might be beneficial to seek a second opinion. Second opinions can be extremely valuable when making decisions about treatment. They can help provide more information about treatment options as well as more confidence in the treatment plan. Many doctors welcome hearing the opinions of their colleagues. Click here for more information on seeking a second opinion.

To receive the names of doctors who specialize in treating pancreatic cancer, contact a Pancreatic Cancer Action Network PALS Associate toll-free at 877-272-6226 or email pals@pancan.org. PALS Associates are available M-F 7am-5pm Pacific Time.

 

Information provided by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Inc. (“PanCAN”) is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or other health care services. PanCAN may provide information to you about physicians, products, services, clinical trials or treatments related to pancreatic cancer, but PanCAN does not recommend nor endorse any particular health care resource. In addition, please note that any personal information you provide to PanCAN’s associates during telephone and/or email communications may be stored and used to help PanCAN achieve its mission of assisting patients with, and finding cures and treatments for, pancreatic cancer. Stored constituent information may be used to inform PanCAN programs and activities. Information also may be provided in aggregate or limited formats to third parties to guide future pancreatic cancer research and treatment efforts. PanCAN will not provide personal directly identifying information (such as your name or contact information) to such third parties without your prior written consent unless required or permitted by law to do so.