After being diagnosed with stage 3 or stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma, you likely had a lot of questions. Now that you and your doctor have decided on a treatment plan, you may want to know more about what happens next.

When learning about any form of cancer treatment, the amount of information coming at you may feel overwhelming. Use this doctor discussion guide during your next appointment to make sure you’re fully informed about the details of your treatment path.

One of the most urgent questions on your mind as you begin treatment is likely about your outlook for recovery. Although stages 3 and 4 are considered to be advanced stages of Hodgkin lymphoma, research shows that the 5-year survival rate cause for hope. For people with stage 3 Hodgkin lymphoma, the 5-year survival rate is around 80 percent, and for people with stage IV, it’s around 65 percent.

Remember that every case is different. Your doctor will be able to give you a more accurate estimate about your outlook based on your personal details and medical history.

The four main types of treatment for stage 3 or 4 Hodgkin lymphoma are chemotherapy, radiation therapy, stem cell transplantation, and immunotherapy. Each type of therapy has unique side effects, and your own treatment path might involve a combination of several different therapies. It’s important to talk to your doctor about what to expect both during and after treatment.

Certain side effects may not show up until well after you’ve finished treatment, so be sure to check with your doctor about what signs and symptoms you should watch out for. It’s also useful to ask about what you can do to help manage any of these potential side effects. If you experience severe side effects, you can speak with your doctor about other treatment options.

So far, no alternative forms of medicine have been found to treat Hodgkin lymphoma effectively. However, there are a number of complementary therapies you can use alongside your current treatment plan to help manage any stress and side effects you’re experiencing. For example, you may decide to try:

  • massage
  • meditation
  • acupuncture
  • exercise
  • art/music therapy
  • special diets

It’s important to discuss these complementary treatment options with your doctor before deciding to try one, as certain physical activities or diets may not be the right fit for you.

Once you’ve completed your treatment, you should talk to your doctor about creating a follow-up plan. Sometimes referred to as a survivorship care plan, this will consist of a rough schedule for your follow-up examinations and screening tests for other cancers. It can also include a list of potential symptoms and side effects to look out for, and suggestions for dietary and lifestyle-related activities.

Some people may be eligible for clinical trials that grant them access to forms of cancer treatment not currently available to the general public. Although participating in these clinical trials may not be the best choice for everyone, it’s worthwhile to ask your doctor whether or not you qualify. Your doctor can discuss with you some of the potential benefits and risks of taking part in one.

While your doctor should be your primary source of support and information during your treatment, they’re not the only one who can provide help. Don’t hesitate to ask about other hospital-based support systems, like social work services, nutritional experts, and professional counselors.

Your friends and family can be another valuable resource for support while you’re in treatment. Whether it’s helping with things like transportation and meals or just lending an ear, your loved ones want to be there for you.

There are also a number of formal cancer support groups that can provide a venue for you to talk about your feelings with other people who have shared experiences. These groups can be a way to meet new friends and to remind you that you’re not alone.

Keep in mind, these topics are only a starting point. Every person’s treatment path is different, and you’ll probably think of more questions as you work toward recovery. Remember that there’s no such thing as a silly question when it comes to your health. Your doctor is the best person to ask about anything related to your treatment.