What Should You Ask Your Health Care Team About Thyroid Cancer?

As you deal with thyroid cancer and the process of treatment, you need to have honest, open discussions with your cancer care team. You should feel free to ask any question on your mind, no matter how minor it might seem. Some of the questions you might want to ask are:

When you’re told you have thyroid cancer

  • What kind of thyroid cancer do I have?
  • Has my cancer spread beyond the thyroid gland?
  • What is the stage of my thyroid cancer? What does this mean in my case?
  • Are there other tests that need to be done before we decide on treatment?
  • Is this form of thyroid cancer hereditary? Should my family be tested?
  • 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?
  • How much surgery do I need? Should I get other treatments as well?
  • What are my treatment choices ?
  • Should I get a second opinion? How do I do that? Can you recommend a doctor or cancer center?
  • What should I do to be ready for treatment?
  • What are the risks and possible side effects of treatment?
  • Will I need to take thyroid hormone for the rest of my life?
  • How long will treatment last? What will it involve? Where will it be done?
  • Will treatment affect my daily activities?
  • When can I go back to my normal activities after treatment?
  • Will this treatment affect my ability to have children? Do I need to avoid pregnancy for a while?
  • What are the chances that my cancer will come back after treatment?
  • What will we do if the treatment doesn’t work or if the cancer recurs?

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?
  • Do I need to change what I eat during treatment?
  • Are there any limits on what I can do?
  • Should I exercise? What 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?

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?
  • 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?
  • What type of follow-up will I need after treatment?

No doubt you will have other questions about your situation. Be sure to write your questions down so that you remember to ask them during each visit with your cancer care team. For example, you might want to ask about clinical trials you may be eligible for. Keep in mind, too, that doctors are not the only ones who can give you information. Other health care professionals, such as nurses and social workers, may have the answers to your questions. You can find more information about communicating with your health care team in our document about talking with your doctor.

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 31, 2016 Last Revised: April 15, 2016

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