Prostate Cancer

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Talking With Your Doctor TOPICS

What should you ask your health care team about prostate cancer?

It’s important to have honest, open discussions with your cancer care team. Feel free to ask any question, no matter how small it might seem. Here are some questions you might want to ask:

When you’re told you have prostate cancer

  • What are the chances that the cancer has spread beyond my prostate? If so, is it still curable?
  • Do I need any other tests before we decide on treatment?
  • Should I see any other types of doctors before deciding on treatment?
  • What is the clinical stage and Gleason score (grade) of my cancer? What do those mean to me?
  • If I’m concerned about the costs and insurance coverage for my diagnosis and treatment, who can help me?

When deciding on a treatment plan

  • How likely is my cancer to cause problems if I’m not treated right away?
  • Should I consider active surveillance as an option? Why or why not?
  • Do you recommend a radical prostatectomy or radiation therapy? Why or why not?
  • Should I consider laparoscopic or robot-assisted prostatectomy?
  • What types of radiation therapy might work best for me?
  • What other treatment(s) might be right for me? Why?
  • What risks or side effects should I expect from my treatment options?
  • What are the chances that I will have problems with incontinence or impotence?
  • What are the chances that I will have other urinary or rectal problems?
  • How quickly do I need to decide on treatment?
  • What should I do to be ready for treatment?
  • How long will treatment last? What will it be like? Where will it be done?
  • How might treatment affect my daily activities?
  • What are the chances my cancer will come back with the treatment plans we have discussed? What would be our next step if this happened?

During treatment

Once treatment begins, you’ll need to know what to expect and what to look for. Not all of these questions may apply to you, but getting answers to the ones that do may be helpful.

  • How will we know if the treatment is working?
  • Is there anything I can do to help manage side effects?
  • What symptoms or side effects should I tell you about right away?
  • How can I reach you on nights, holidays, or weekends?
  • Do I need to change what I eat during treatment?
  • Are there any limits on what I can do?
  • Can you suggest a mental health professional I can see if I start to feel overwhelmed, depressed, or distressed?

After treatment

  • Are there any limits on what I can do?
  • What symptoms should I watch for?
  • Should I exercise or follow a special diet?
  • What type of follow-up will I need after treatment?
  • How often will I need to have follow-up exams and imaging tests?
  • Will I need any blood tests?
  • How will we know if the cancer has come back? What should I watch for?
  • What will my options be if the cancer comes back?

Along with these sample questions, be sure to write down some of your own. For instance, you might want to ask about recovery time so that you can plan your work or activity schedule. If you still might want to have children, ask if there is a possibility you could become impotent or sterile. You also might want to ask if you qualify for any clinical trials.

Keep in mind that doctors aren’t the only ones who can give you information. Other health care professionals, such as nurses and social workers, can answer some of your questions. To find out more about speaking with your health care team, see Talking With Your Doctor.

Last Medical Review: 02/16/2016
Last Revised: 03/11/2016