30+ Questions to Ask Doctors After a Cancer Diagnosis

As a two-time breast cancer survivor, I’ve learned a few things about being a good patient and advocating for myself. It really starts with asking solid questions, so I wanted to share my comprehensive list of questions to ask doctors when evaluating treatments. I created this list initially when I was first diagnosed and added to it throughout the years. It’s also one of the resources in my book, Happiness through Hardship: A Guide for Cancer Patients, Their Caregivers and Friends During an Initial Cancer Diagnosis.

List of Questions to Ask Doctors When Evaluating Treatments

Can you please explain my illness?
What type is it?
Where is it located? (if this applies)
What are the risk factors for this illness?
Are my family members at risk? If so, what should they do?
Tell me about your hopeful patients and success stories.

What diagnostic tools have you used/should you use for my case?
Are there any side effects from using these?
How often will you monitor me long-term with these tools?
Where do I go?
How should I prepare for them?

What is your recommendation for treatment?
What are the pros/cons of this treatment?
What are the side effects?
What are my options for managing the side effects?
Will my other activities and lifestyle activities (e.g., diet, exercise, etc.) need to be changed as a result of starting with this treatment?
How have your patients fared on this treatment (side-effects-wise)?
How will this influence my life over the short term and long term?
What is the expected timeline until I start the treatment? Through the entire treatment?
What are my other options for treatment?

How many patients like me have you treated?
How much experience do you and your team have with patients with my particular case?

Do you have a cancer care team or other doctors/nurses/people who will support me during my illness?
Can you explain their roles?

Are there other support services available to me and my family?
Does the hospital offer counseling, nutrition guidance, massage, reiki, or integrative medicine?

Do you take calls after hours or send emails to your patients?
Do you encourage your patients to call or email with questions?

Is there a person who can talk me through managing the costs of this illness?

Who in your office handles health insurance concerns?

Looking to print out this list of questions, download it HERE: Downloadable Doc Q’s – HTH Book.

If you are looking for more resources – I’ve included some of my favorites below that helped us to figure out treatment plans and coping throughout.

  Happiness through Hardship by Caryn Sullivan

Additional Cancer Resources for the First Few Months After Diagnosis– I created this website and the resource page to share my inspiring stories, and treatment and health tips, for cancer patients and survivors

Art therapy

CancerCare – Information on available support groups, financial assistance, and counseling

Cancer Connect – Online community for patients and caregivers

Chemotherapy Thoughts

ChemotherapySaving Hair

Cleaning for a Reason Free home cleaning for patients

Clinical trials – Finding them

Free products/services for patients 

Home matters and cancer – A guide to keeping your home through illness

Look Good, Feel Better Program – Complimentary beauty program

Money – GoFundMe campaigns

Oncology Medical Community

Overall caregivers, family, and friends support

Radiation therapy

WigsHow to choose a wig

Young Survival Coalition – Understanding treatments, scans, and reports

For more resources and a guide through cancer, check out Happiness through Hardship: A Guide for Cancer Patients, Their Caregivers and Friends During an Initial Cancer Diagnosis. It’s available now on the Amazon Kindle or Amazon Kindle App (for Macs, PCs and smartphones.) I’m also donating half the net profits to metastatic breast cancer research through  The Cancer Couch Foundation. Check out the segment where we discuss the book on WTNH-TV.

For more cancer resources and daily tips and inspirational ideas on healthy living, clean eating and a non-toxic lifestyle, please follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

For speaking engagements, check out my business website and demo reel at I can be reached at [email protected].

We would love to hear from you. Please comment and let us know other resources that provided a ton of value during initial diagnosis.