Q. My 77-year-old mom has been diagnosed with cancer. As a stroke survivor with diabetes, she is at high risk for surgery, which seems to be the preferred option for treatment. I don't feel like I am asking enough and/or the right questions. I am meeting with an oncologist for guidance. However, I want to be sure I am dotting all "i's" and crossing all of my "t's." Is someone available to speak with to help guide me in the right direction for starters?

A.

When you and your loved one are facing a new diagnosis it can be overwhelming and difficult to know what steps to take. Meeting with an oncologist to discuss your mother’s treatment plan is incredibly important, especially given her multiple health issues.

Some questions to consider asking:

  • What is the recommended treatment and side effects?
  • How will the treatments affect other co-existing health issues?
  • What is the goal of the treatment?
  • What other treatment options are available?

During the meeting with the doctor take notes or ask the doctor if you can record the meeting using a tape recorder or other recording device. If there is something you don’t understand don’t be afraid to speak up!

Your mother may also consider getting a second opinion. While some may feel uncomfortable bringing this up with their oncologist, medical staff understand and respect the difficulty of making treatment decisions and can often provide referrals for another opinion. They can also provide copies of your mother’s records so that tests don’t have to be repeated. No matter what you and your mother decide, communication with the medical team is key.

Please know CancerCare is here for you. Our oncology social workers are available to assist you and address the many issues that come up as you and your family go through this. We can help you with questions to ask your medical team and also provide support. You can contact us through our Hopeline at 800-813-HOPE (4673).

You will find more tips in our fact sheet, “Doctor, Can We Talk?”: Tips for Communicating With Your Health Care Team.