What to Ask the Doctor After Lymphoma Diagnosis: A Checklist
Upon receiving a diagnosis of lymphoma, it is quite normal to feel shocked, confused, anxious, or even frightened. You may feel concerned about the medical aspects of the cancer diagnosis, such as treatment options and side effects. During this time, you must make major decisions in regards to your well-being, which may take a toll on your emotional health. For this reason, it is important to be open and honest with your friends and loved ones about what you are feeling. It is equally important to consult with your doctor and cancer care team to find out a little more about your type of lymphoma, the cause of cancer, and possible treatment options. Do not be afraid to ask questions if you are concerned. Your doctor and cancer care team will provide you with all the information you require.
Consider compiling a list of questions to ask your doctor based on categories such as type of lymphoma, treatments, everyday living, and more. Doing this can help you to better understand your options and make the decision-making process just a little bit easier. Below are suggested questions that can act as a starting point for your medical needs, anticipations, and overall care.
After Receiving a Lymphoma Diagnosis
- What type of lymphoma do I have?
- What is the stage of the lymphoma?
- In what part of my body has the disease spread to?
- Could you please explain my lab results to me in detail?
- Have other doctors reviewed my lab results as well?
- Should I get a second opinion?
- How do my prognostic factors look?
- Do I need to undergo any more tests before we decide on a treatment plan?
- Will my insurance cover my diagnosis and treatment costs? Who can help me to better understand my options?
- Could you tell me more about the survival rates of this type of lymphoma?
- Is there anything else that you feel I would benefit from knowing or doing?
- Is there anything else that you feel I should know about or be aware of?
Choosing a Treatment
- What are my treatment options?
- What treatment plan do you recommend? Will this treatment plan eliminate the cancer altogether or just alleviate my symptoms?
- How experienced are you in treating the type of lymphoma that I have?
- Are there any new clinical trials that I should be aware of? How do I find out more about them?
- Who will be overseeing my treatment?
- Whom should I contact if I have any questions in regards to my treatment?
- Will I need surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy?
- What are the advantages of disadvantages of radiotherapy?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of chemotherapy?
- What areas do you plan to treat?
- Will the treatment affect my daily life?
- Will the treatment affect my sex life?
- Will I be able to work and perform other daily activities?
- Will I be able to exercise?
- Will I be able to become pregnant / have children? Should I consider talking to a fertility specialist about my options before my treatment begins?
- What should I do to prepare for the treatment?
- How long will the treatment last?
- What is stem cell transplantation? What is the goal of this treatment?
- What is bone marrow transplantation? What is the goal of this treatment?
- Will I need to be hospitalized? If so, for how long?
- Is there any specific treatment plan that will lessen the chance of the lymphoma coming back?
- What are the chances that the lymphoma will come back?
- Is the type of lymphoma that I have curable? If not, can the cancer be controlled?
- Can the lymphoma get worse if I do not receive treatment right away?
- What follow-up tests will I need to undergo? When should I undergo these tests?
- What support groups are available to me? Are there any support groups available to my family?
- Can you explain to me what I can expect my recovery to be like?
Managing Side Effects
- What are the possible side effects of lymphoma treatment?
- What are the early side effects? Are there any late side effects?
- Is there anything that I can do to help ease side effects?
- What symptoms should I expect during treatment? If they worsen, whom should I contact?
- Can the side effects of the treatment affect my sex life? If so, for how long?
- Will taking any supplements or medications trigger side effects?
- Will any dietary changes help improve my overall health?
- Are there any healthy lifestyle choices that I should be making to help alleviate my symptoms?
- How will I know if the treatment is working?
- Are there any symptoms or side effects that I should expect?
- Are there limits to any daily activities that I can perform?
- Are there any foods that I should avoid during treatment?
- Am I allowed to drink alcoholic beverages during treatment?
- Are there any supplements or medications that I should avoid during treatment?
- Whom should I reach in case the treatment triggers unwanted symptoms or side effects?
- Are there any counselors or support groups that you can recommend in case I start to feel depressed or overwhelmed?
- Are there any follow-up tests that I should have after treatment?
- Will I have to receive another type of treatment after having undergone the main course of treatment?
- How will I know if the lymphoma has come back? What would my options be if this happens?
- Are there any symptoms that I should be aware of that would suggest that the lymphoma has come back?
- Can I travel?
- Is it safe for me to receive vaccinations?
- Is there anything that I can do to reduce the risk of the lymphoma coming back?
- If I want to start a family, how long should I wait after the treatment has finished?
If Lymphoma Returns
- How will the lymphoma be treated this time around? Is there any chance for a guaranteed cure with this specific treatment?
- Will I require additional courses of treatment? If so, for how long?
- Do I need to receive treatment right away?
- When will I be able to tell whether the treatment is working?
- What are the chances of going back into remission with additional treatment?
- Is there anything that I should be doing this time around to avoid aggravating symptoms or triggering side effects?
Along with these suggested questions, jot down a few of your own. You may wish to find out more about treatment options such as bone marrow transplantation. You may even wish to consult with your doctor about new clinical trials, the advantages and disadvantages that they entail, and whether you qualify to undergo such trials. Remember that while doctors can provide you with the health-related information that you require, they are not the only ones. You can also turn to your cancer care team, nurses, social workers, and even support groups to answer some of your questions.
Communicate with those around you and find out more about your lymphoma diagnosis, treatment plans, and overall care.