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Discussing Cancer With Your Doctor

Your Health / Conditions / Cancer / Discussing Cancer With Your Doctor

Published on Jul 31, 2020
Authored by Pfizer Medical Team


When faced with a cancer diagnosis, you and your family might feel like the earth has been ripped from under you. What can help is to gain a better understanding of what is in front of you. You also need to find a doctor with whom you feel comfortable and can speak openly. But just what should you and your doctor talk about?

Knowing what questions to ask can help you feel prepared for your doctor visits. While it may take more than one appointment to ensure that all of your concerns are addressed, making a list of your questions in advance can help you get the answers you need.

Create your discussion guide

Print this page out and read over the list of questions below. Check off those that you would like to discuss with your doctor. You can also add questions at the bottom. Bring this to your next appointment.

If you prefer, Rare Cancers Australia have created a mobile app that prompts questions and with permission from your clinician, records the consultation for later reference.

This tool is not intended to result in a diagnosis or a treatment recommendation. It’s meant to help you have a more meaningful discussion with your doctor. 

When you learn about your cancer diagnosis

  • What type of cancer do I have, where is it and has it spread around my body?

  • Is this cancer fast- or slow-growing?

  • Do you specialise in my cancer type? Or do I need to be referred to a specialist centre?

When working with the doctor on your treatment plan

  • Is there a clinical trial for my type of cancer that I should consider entering?

  • What kinds of genetic or biomarker tests are needed to work out my treatment options?

  • What treatment options do you suggest at this time and why? What are the risks and benefits? What are the possible side effects?

  • Will the treatment cure my cancer or slow down the growth and potentially control my symptoms?

  • How soon do I need to start treatment? What if I need more time to decide?

  • Where will I have the treatment?

  • How often will I take or receive my treatment?

  • What are the costs of these treatments or tests? Are they subsidised? Do I need private health insurance?

  • How will I know if the treatment is working? Or not working?

  • Will the treatment affect my ability to have children?

  • What are the odds that my cancer may come back after each of my treatment options?

  • What if I don’t want to have treatment?

  • Who’s on my treatment team and how often do I need to see them?

About day to day life

  • How will my day-to-day life be affected? Will I need to make any changes in my family or work life?

  • What support services or groups are there to help my family and I?

  • What emotional or psychological support is available for me?

  • If I cannot work, what financial support is there?

  • Does my diagnosis mean that my children or close relatives are at higher risk of this cancer?

  • If I have any more questions, who can I contact?

Please add any additional questions you'd like to ask your doctor.



  1. Cancer Council: Questions to ask your doctor https://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/after-a-diagnosis/questions-to-ask-your-doctor.html Accessed June 30, 2020

Last reviewed: 13/11/2019

External Resources

Cancer Support Organisations in Australia
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trial Registry
Cancer Society New Zealand
Rare Cancers Australia: CAN.recall app

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