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Support > Questions for your Doctor

Last update: 01/30/2013

TOPICS

Preparations | The Art of Asking Questions

General Questions | Treatment Questions | Side-Effect Questions | Test Questions

Teamwork Questions | Related Resources

Questions You'd like to add?

We believe that you can help to improve the quality of your care by preparing for consults and asking good questions.  The goal being to make it easy for your doctor to see the big picture – your medical needs, expectations, and priorities, and also to receive timely access to evidence-based medical care.

  See also our printable brochure PDF  

Preparations

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Bring a trusted friend or relative, or ask if you can tape the consult.
bullet Prepare: (1) referral, (2) authorization, (3) insurance cards, (4) emergency contacts, (5) doctor & local pharmacy contacts, (6) pathology report & slides, (7) concise written diagnosis, treatment and medical history, (8) medications & supplements list, (9) radiology reports & film, (10) allergy list, and your

(11) concise written list of your questions
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Big Picture Questions prepared by PAL

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THE ART of ASKING QUESTIONS

Honesty and diplomacy can help to build mutually respectful and supportive relationships with the members of our health care team.

Ask: "Is this a good time to ask questions, doctor?"

Indicate that some of your lower-priority questions can be answered later when time allows, by phone or email.

Be sure to also ask: "How are you doing, doctor?"

Provide a copy of your questions in writing – with space for answers – so your doctor can answer all your questions when time allows.

Communicate honestly about side effects and symptoms (See for checklist: PDF).

Find ways to show your appreciation for the skills and dedication of your health care team when it is evident.

Try not to overwhelm your doctor with a laundry list of questions in any one consult. 

List your most important questions first, and indicate which are most important to you with a star.

Be sure to prepare a concise story of your diagnosis and treatment to help your doctor to see the big picture.

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GENERAL QUESTIONS

A checklist to pick from.  Provide your questions to your doctor in writing - listing the questions of highest importance first - and marking them as such.

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How often should I schedule visits?
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What prescriptions do I need & how should they be taken and stored?
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Prior to treatment or tests: Ask the staff to verify that your doctors, the healthcare facility, and the type of treatment or test you are receiving are all covered in your insurance plan, and check if the tests and treatments require pre-authorization.
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Can you refer me to a social worker that specializes in helping with finances and insurance matters?
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What is the best way and time to communicate with you about my concerns? Phone? Fax? Email?

“Do you discuss cases with your partners?”

“How do you cover each other on the weekends?”

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What materials or resources can you provide to help me to become informed about the disease and the treatments?
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What resources are available to me to help me cope with the anxiety I feel?
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What other resources are available to me: Nutrition? Psychosocial? Sexual?
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May I record what you say on tape so that I can be sure not to miss what you say, …. Or do you mind if I take notes?
bullet Services you might not think to inquire about:

(1) Care managers, (2) Mental health professionals, (3) Pain specialists, (4) Physical therapists, (5) Nutritional experts, (5) Social workers or (6) Support groups

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TREATMENT-RELATED QUESTIONS

A checklist to pick from. Provide your questions to your doctor in writing - listing the questions of highest importance first - and marking them as such.

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NEW: Big Picture Questions by PAL
 

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What is my diagnosis? And can you please provide me a copy of the pathology report.

Can a second expert review of the sample be done to confirm the diagnosis?
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How widespread is the disease (the stage)?
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Do I have any unique risk factors that might influence how I should be treated?
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Does the disease require prompt treatment and why?
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Can the disease be cured?
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What are the symptoms of the disease, and which indicate a need for treatment?
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What are my treatment choices?
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Do you offer radioimmunotherapy as a treatment option?
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Are new treatments under study? Would a clinical trial be appropriate for me?
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Which treatment or treatment sequence do you recommend? Why?

NOTE: The rationale for a treatment can be especially important to you when there are multiple choices and there is no clear best approach. 
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What is your level of confidence that the recommended treatment is the best choice?
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What is the goal of this treatment? (management versus durable remission)
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What are the chances that the treatment will be successful?
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Is the collection of stem cells indicated before or after this treatment?

When is the best time to consider stem cell harvesting, in general?
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How long will the treatments last?
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How long will it take for the treatment to begin working against the disease?

EXAMPLES: Antibiotic therapy for H-pylori can take 12 months or more to show a result against MALT lymphoma; and Rituxan therapy can take many months before an optimal response is seen.
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How easy is it to administer; will it disrupt my normal life or ability to work?
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How durable is the response likely to be?
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What signs will indicate that the therapy is beginning to work or that it is not working?
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What tests will be used to measure or gauge an early response to treatment?

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SIDE EFFECT QUESTIONS

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What side effects should I expect?
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What side effects should I report to you immediately?
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What side effects may I experience that are not dangerous?
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Will there be side effects that may prevent me from using other important treatments, or make it more difficult to harvesting of stem cells in future?
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What signs or changes should I report immediately?
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What is the best way to contact you about side effects?
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How will I feel during therapy, and will it affect my ability to do normal activities?
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Can I have sexual relations during this treatment?
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What can I do to minimize risks during therapy, such as risk of infection?
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Will the treatment or withdrawal from treatment cause depression?
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Will you prescribe medications to minimize side effects and risks? Neupogen? Anti-nausea? Anti-depressive? …
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What foods, supplements, procedures, or medications should I avoid during treatment?

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TEST QUESTIONS

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What tests will you order?
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What will the tests show or indicate?
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Can the test show false positive results?  How often?
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Will you provide copies of the results?
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How often should I receive these tests?
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What toxicity and/or risks are associated with this test – or the repeated long-term use of this test? Is there a safer alternative?
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What changes or symptoms may indicate the need for tests?
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What test results indicate a need to initiate or change treatment?
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When is a bone marrow biopsy indicated?
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What steps will you take to minimize the discomfort and anxiety associated with the bone marrow test?

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TEAMWORK QUESTIONS

KevinMD: How well does your doctor play with others? http://bit.ly/SxTltL 
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“Do you discuss cases with your partners?”

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“How do you cover each other on the weekends?”

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“How long have you been together?”

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“What do you, as a doctor, look for in other doctors?”

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“What is your culture of collaboration?”

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“Is there is a unifying philosophy that the doctors in your practice share? What is it?”

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Teamwork questions
 

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Speaking of Teamwork ... Show your support for PAL by Giving Us a High 5!
(no more or less can be gifted to PAL with this PayPAL button. 
See also Other Ways to Help)

 

Related Resources

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Checklist for Doctor Visits & Resources  PAL
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Printable Treatment Appointment Diary  PAL
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Preparing for Doctor Visits  PDF 
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Is a clinical trial  appropriate for me?  PDF
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When to Consider Clinical trials, based on your clinical circumstances PDF
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Treatment History Diary  PDF
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Spreadsheet: Treatment History Calculator   Excel version 2000 | Excel version 5.0

 

 
Disclaimer:  The information on Lymphomation.org is not intended to be a substitute for 
professional medical advice or to replace your relationship with a physician.
For all medical concerns,  you should always consult your doctor. 
Patients Against Lymphoma, Copyright © 2004,  All Rights Reserved.