Living with Cancer: 5 Important Questions

If you are diagnosed with cancer, here are some questions to ask your doctor.

What is the prognosis for this form of cancer?

The aggressiveness and deadliness of different types of cancer vary widely, and two cases of the same type of cancer may have very different outcomes depending on when treatment starts. Knowing some statistics about survival and recurrence rates for your specific type of cancer can be helpful in making treatment and other decisions. For example, nearly 100 percent of people diagnosed with prostate cancer survive for at least five years after diagnosis, while more than four out of five lung cancer patients die within five years.

How should I change my diet and exercise schedule?

Your doctor may prescribe a special diet to avoid potential drug interactions, to keep up strength during chemotherapy or radiation treatments, or to avoid certain foods that cause digestive problems. Regular exercise has been found to decrease pain and increase the quality of life for cancer patients, but overdoing it can cause injuries or delay treatment.

Are there any alternative medical treatments that might help?

Treatments such as acupuncture, massage, meditation, and yoga may not cure cancer, but they have been proven affective at reducing pain, minimizing medical treatment side effects, and improving overall quality of life.

Are there any clinical trials or investigative treatments in which I could participate?

The scientific community's understanding of cancer is constantly changing, and new forms of treatment are constantly under investigation. There are both positives and negatives to participating in this research. You may have access to higher-quality care and more effective treatment than you would otherwise, but the experimental treatment may also be less effective than standard methods or cause serious side effects. Your doctor can help determine if you can and/or should participate in any research trials.

What happens after my treatment is over?

Even after successful treatment, there is a possibility that some cancer cells may remain. They can regrow into a new tumor or migrate to other areas of the body. In addition, side effects from cancer treatment can occur long after treatment has concluded. Make sure to discuss follow-up appointments and tests with your doctor.