Questions to Ask About Anal Cancer

It's important to have honest, open discussions with your cancer care team. They want to answer all your questions, so that you can make informed treatment and life decisions. For instance, consider these questions:

When you’re told you have anal cancer

  • What kind of anal cancer do I have?
  • Has my cancer spread beyond where it started?
  • What is the stage of my cancer and what does this mean in my case?
  • Will I need other tests before we can decide on treatment?
  • Will I need to see other doctors?
  • 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 much experience do you have treating this type of cancer?
  • Should I get a second opinion? How do I do that? Can you recommend someone or a cancer center?
  • What are my treatment choices?
  • What treatment would you recommend for me? Why?
  • What is the goal of each treatment?
  • What are the chances my cancer can be cured with these options?
  • 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?
  • What are the risks or side effects of the treatments you suggest? How long are they likely to last?
  • Will I need to have a colostomy?
  • How soon do I need to start treatment?
  • Will treatment affect my daily acitivites?
  • What would my options be if the treatment doesn't work or if the cancer comes back after treatment?

During treatment

  • 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?
  • What kind of exercise should I do now?
  • 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?
  • How soon after treatment can I return to my normal activities, such as work, school, exercise, or sex?

Along with these sample questions, be sure to write down some of your own. For instance, you might want more information about recovery times. Or you might want to ask if you qualify for a clinical trial.

Doctors are not the only ones who can provide you with information. Other health care professionals, such as nurses and social workers, can also answer some of your questions. You can find out more about communicating with your health care team in The Doctor-Patient Relationship.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Revised: September 9, 2020

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