If you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer, you’re probably overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions that it’s hard to prepare for your first visit to the oncologist. Understanding your cancer prognosis is the first step to finding the right treatment options. We can’t take the uncertainty away, but we can tell you what to expect. Here are some essential things to expect at your first oncology appointment and how to prepare for your visit.
The First Step
If your referring doctor hasn’t scheduled it already, you’ll need to make an oncology appointment. Depending on what type of cancer and its stage, you may see a medical oncologist, surgical oncologist, or radiation oncologist. The oncologist will perform a physical exam and talk to you about your diagnosis and treatment.
Every visit to a new medical provider requires a medical history. You’ll probably get a phone call first from someone asking about your medical records, including documents like test results, body scans, and health insurance. This gives your doctor a unique view of your case and the best way to handle it.
On your first visit, the doctor will ask to hear your story. The goal is to verify the information in your file and add anything new during your discussion. The oncologist can better understand your perspective and wishes by getting to know you.
You can help by answering questions honestly and completely. Bring a pen and paper for taking notes and a list of questions to ask your oncologist. Some people bring a friend or family member to support and catch anything you might miss.
Provide a list (or the actual bottles) of all the medications, vitamins, supplements, and herbs you take, including the dosage and how often you take them. Even common supplements like Vitamin D and calcium can interfere with some treatments.
Cancer Treatment Options
After you understand your cancer prognosis and treatment options, it’s time to set up a plan. The oncology care team will schedule your therapy, tell you how it works, and ensure you know what to expect during the process. Treatment may occur in the same clinic as your appointment or another location, depending on where you live and the type of facility.
12 Questions to Ask Your Oncologist
Make the most of your oncology appointment by asking questions like these:
- Can someone stay with me during therapy?
- Can you recommend a cancer specialist to give me a second opinion?
- What is my cancer prognosis?
- Can my cancer be cured, or can it only be controlled?
- Does my cancer have a genetic link?
- Can I enroll in a clinical trial?
- Is there a support group for this kind of cancer?
- What can I do to take care of myself during treatment?
- Is there a treatment center closer to my home?
- Will the treatment affect my fertility?
- What happens if the treatment options don’t work?
- Will my insurance pay for the treatments?
What Comes Next
After your appointment, set up a file to keep medical records, information about your medications, exercise and diet advice, and schedule appointments and treatment. Include an ongoing list of questions for your care team and pamphlets or articles that help you understand your illness and how it affects you mentally and physically. Always ask someone for help if you have trouble coping with your diagnosis and treatment.
Verdi Cancer and Research Center of Texas has a team of board-certified physicians who diagnose and treat cancer patients. Following The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® guidelines, they help patients find clinical trials and innovative therapies.