Questions to Ask About Pancreatic Cancer

It’s important to have honest, open discussions with your cancer care team. They want to answer all of your questions, so that you can make informed treatment and life decisions. Here are some questions to consider:

When you’re told you have pancreatic cancer

  • What kind of pancreatic cancer do I have?
  • Has my cancer spread beyond the pancreas?
  • What is the stage of my cancer? Is it resectable (removable by surgery)?
  • Will I need any other tests before we can decide on treatment?
  • Do I need to see any other doctors or health professionals?
  • 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

  • What are my treatment options?
  • What do you recommend and why?
  • How much experience do you have treating this type of cancer?
  • What is the goal of each treatment?
  • Should I get a second opinion? How do I do that? Can you recommend a doctor or cancer center?
  • How is treatment likely to help me?
  • How quickly do we need to decide on treatment?
  • Should I think about taking part in a clinical trial?
  • How soon do I need to start 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 treatment affect how I eat?
  • Will treatment affect my daily activities?
  • What will we do if the treatment doesn’t work or if the cancer 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 asking 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 I exercise during treatment? If so, what kind should I do, and how often?
  • Can you suggest a mental health professional I can see if I start to feel overwhelmed, depressed, or distressed?
  • What if I need social support during treatment because my family lives far away?

After treatment

  • Are there any limits on what I can do?
  • Do I need a special diet after treatment?
  • 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 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 more information about recovery times. You may also want to ask about about clinical trials for which you may qualify.

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 Medical Review: March 14, 2016 Last Revised: May 31, 2016

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