What Should You Ask Your Doctor About Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?

It’s important to have honest, open discussions with your cancer care team. You should feel free to ask any question, no matter how minor it might seem. For instance, consider these questions:

When you’re told you have non-Hodgkin lymphoma

  • What type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma do I have?
  • Has my biopsy been reviewed by a pathologist who’s an expert on lymphoma?
  • Do I need any other tests before we can decide on treatment?
  • Do I need to see any other types of doctors?
  • What’s the stage (extent) of the lymphoma? What does that mean in my case?
  • Are there other factors that could affect my treatment options?
  • 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 lymphoma?
  • What are my treatment options? What do you recommend, and why?
  • Do we need to treat the lymphoma right away?
  • Should I get a second opinion before starting treatment? Can you suggest a doctor or cancer center?
  • 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 are there to the treatments you suggest?
  • How might treatment affect my daily activities?
  • What’s my outlook for survival?
  • What are the chances of the lymphoma coming back with these treatment plans?
  • What would we do if the treatment doesn’t work or if the lymphoma comes back?

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?
  • 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

  • What type of follow-up will I need after treatment?
  • What symptoms should I watch for?
  • How will we know if the lymphoma has come back? What would my options be if that happens?

Along with these sample questions, be sure to write down some of your own. For instance, you might want more information about recovery times so that you can plan your work or activity schedule. Or you may want to ask about clinical trials for which you 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 communicating with your health care team, see The Doctor-Patient Relationship.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: May 31, 2016 Last Revised: May 31, 2016

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