Talking to Your Doctor About Colorectal Cancer

You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors and/or experience with colorectal cancer. By talking openly and regularly with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care.Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your doctor:

  • Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask.
  • Write out your questions ahead of time, so you don't forget them.
  • Write down the answers you get, and make sure you understand what you are hearing. Ask for clarification, if necessary.
  • Don't be afraid to ask your questions or ask where you can find more information about what you are discussing. You have a right to know.
  • Based on my family and medical history, am I at increased risk for colorectal cancer?
  • Are my children or other relatives at higher risk for colorectal cancer?
  • What is the stage of my cancer?
  • Should I see a surgeon? Medical oncologist? Radiation oncologist?Should these doctors be involved in planning my treatment before we begin?
  • What treatments are recommended for me?
  • What are the most common side effects associated with these treatment options?
  • Will my treatment require a stay in the hospital? If so, for how long?
  • What possible long-term effects might occur as a result of the surgery or post-surgical treatment?
  • How commonly do these occur? What can be done, if anything, to reduce these effects?
  • Will I need a colostomy? Will it be permanent?
  • Is this treatment likely to cure my cancer? If not, what treatments are planned to extend my life?
  • What is the probability of a recurrence and what treatment(s) are available to me in the event of a recurrence?
  • After treatment, what type of follow-up should I have?
  • Are there any alternative or complementary therapies that I should consider?
  • How will my normal activities change as a result of treatment?
  • Can you recommend support groups in the local area with people I can talk to?
  • Will my sexual function be affected?
  • What side effects should I expect?
  • How long will they last?
  • Which side effects should I report? To whom should I report side effects?
  • What follow-up tests will be done and at what intervals?
  • Do you regularly measure CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) values? What will you do if this increases?

References

Tips for talking to your doctor. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/healthcare-management/working-with-your-doctor/tips-for-talking-to-your-doctor.html. Updated November 2010. Accessed May 14, 2013.

What should you ask your doctor about colorectal cancer? American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/colonandrectumcancer/detailedguide/colorectal-cancer-talking-with-doctor. Updated: January 17, 2013. Accessed May 14, 2013.

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