It’s important to have honest, open discussions with your cancer care team. You should 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 melanoma
- How far has the melanoma spread within or beneath the skin? How thick is the melanoma?
- Has the melanoma spread to other parts of my body?
- Will I need any other tests before we can decide on treatment?
- Will I need to see any other types of 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?
- What are my treatment options? What are the possible risks and benefits of each?
- Which treatment do you recommend? Why?
- What is the goal of the treatment?
- Should I get a second opinion? If so, how do I do that? Can you recommend a doctor or cancer center?
- How quickly do we 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 risks or side effects should I expect? How long are they likely to last?
- Will I have a scar after treatment? How big will it be?
- Will treatment affect my daily activities?
- What are the chances of my cancer growing or recurring (coming back) with the treatment options we have discussed? What will we do if this happens?
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 or someone on your team on nights, holidays, or weekends?
- Are there any limits on what I can do?
- Do you know of any local or online support groups where I can talk to others who have been through this?
- Can you suggest a mental health professional I can see if I start to feel overwhelmed, depressed, or distressed?
- What symptoms should I watch for?
- What are the chances of my cancer coming back? Is there anything I can do to help lower my risk?
- What are my chances of developing another skin cancer?
- Should I take special precautions to avoid the sun? What steps can I take to protect myself?
- What type of follow-up will I need after treatment?
- How will we know if the cancer has come back? What would my options be if that happens?
- Are my family members at risk for skin cancer? What should I tell them to do?
Along with these sample questions, be sure to write down your own questions. For instance, you might want more information about recovery times so you can plan your work or activity schedule. Or you might want to ask about clinical trials for which you may qualify.
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 The Doctor-Patient Relationship.