A patient getting answers from her oncologist

Helpful questions to ask your oncologist

If you have been newly diagnosed with cancer, it’s natural to have a lot of questions. You may experience a range of emotions, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed at first. Take the time to process the news, develop an action plan, and mobilize a strong support system of family or friends.
A good place to start is making a list of questions for your doctor.
Write the questions down. But don’t worry about forgetting something you wanted to ask or having more questions come to mind after leaving the doctor’s office. The doctor understands your concerns and is there to work with you, along with the rest of the care team.
Having a close family member diagnosed with breast cancer brought home the fact that patients have questions and concerns, but they don't always include these questions on the list they bring to the doctor's office,” said Wade Smith, M.D., a medical oncologist specializing in breast cancer at City of Hope Newport Beach Fashion Island. “Knowing that it's incumbent on the doctor to have an in-depth conversation with the patient and care partner so that everyone receives important information. Making that connection at the very beginning of the cancer  journey is one of the most important aspects of my job as a City of Hope physician.”
Here are several of the questions you may want to ask at your first appointment. If you can, write down the physician’s answers and take notes, or record your visit if they allow it. It’s always a good idea to have a friend or listen in – even if it’s by phone – to take notes for you and provide support.
How much experience do you have treating this type of cancer?
Your first shot against cancer should be your best shot. While cancer patients’ first inclination may be to get treatment underway as soon as possible after diagnosis, in most cases, time is available and well spent investigating options.
Before starting treatment, speak with a specialist who has a depth of experience treating your specific type of cancer. City of Hope physicians focus solely on treating and curing cancer. Consider City of Hope Orange County for highly-specialized cancer experts available for first and second opinions and access to pioneering treatments and clinical trials powered by our renowned clinician-scientists. Request a new patient appointment online.
Should I get a second opinion?
A second opinion can help patients gain peace of mind that they are fully aware of their cancer diagnosis and understand every available treatment option. The best time to seek a second opinion is before treatment starts. If you have questions about your physician’s recommendations or experience treating your particular type of cancer, speak with a highly specialized physician at City of Hope Orange County.
What are the risks and benefits of my treatment options?
Each person’s cancer is unique to their genetic profile. Some patients will only need one form of cancer treatment, while others will need a blended approach utilizing a combination of therapies that may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted drug therapy, immunotherapy, hormone therapy, surgery, or other treatments. Ask your doctor whether you will have more than one type of treatment and how each is expected to help you.
What can I do to manage the potential side effects of treatment?
Cancer treatment is personalized for each patient, but so are the side effects. Patients should speak with their doctor about what to expect and steps to effectively deal with potential side effects.
Will treatment affect my ability to perform work or other daily activities?
Some people work through treatment without any change to their schedule. Others work with special accommodations at the office, while some will need a less demanding schedule. The key is finding what works best for each patient under the circumstances and adapting to changing needs.
Are there any clinical trials that may be right for me?
Your doctor may suggest participating in a clinical trial. City of Hope is a world-renowned leader in clinical trials that groundbreaking treatments available to cancer patients soon after they are developed. Search our clinical trials and read our clinical trial FAQs.
What questions would you ask if you were me?
Good communication with your physician, including asking and answering questions, will help you manage your treatment. Visit our Patient Resources page for more helpful tools and resources.
Hope is growing at City of Hope Orange County. Our new locations in Huntington Beach, Newport Beach Lido, and Irvine Sand Canyon join City of Hope Newport Beach Fashion Island to form a four-location network of highly specialized cancer care. To make an appointment at any of our four Orange County locations, click here or call:
  • Newport Beach Fashion Island: (949) 763-2204
  • Newport Beach Lido: (949) 999-1400
  • Irvine Sand Canyon: (949) 333-7580
  • Huntington Beach: (714) 252-9415