What Should You Ask Your Doctor About Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancers?

As you cope with cancer and cancer treatment, we encourage you to have honest, open discussions with your doctor. Ask any question, no matter how small it might seem. Nurses, social workers, and other members of your treatment team may also be able to answer many of your questions. Here are some questions to get you started.

  • What kind of oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer do I have?
  • Where is my cancer located?
  • Has my cancer spread beyond the main (primary) site?
  • What is the stage of my cancer? What does the stage mean?
  • Will I need other tests before we can decide on treatment?
  • Are there other doctors I need to see?
  • How much experience do you have treating this type of cancer?
  • What are my treatment choices? Which do you recommend? Why?
  • What's the goal of the treatment?
  • What are the chances my cancer be cured with treatment?
  • 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?
  • How would treatment affect my daily activities?
  • What risks and side effects can I expect? How long are they likely to last?
  • Will this treatment affect the way I look? If so, what are my options for reconstruction?
  • What are our options if the treatment doesn’t work or if the cancer comes back (recurs)?
  • What type of follow-up will I need after treatment?
  • Where can I find more information and support?

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 you can plan your work or activity schedule. Or you may want to ask about second opinions or about clinical trials for which you may qualify. You can find more information 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: March 9, 2018

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