Should I ask my doctor about
my prognosis? What kinds of
questions should I prepare?
PAMELA CRILLEY: You can ask your
doctor anything you want to know. It
is important to have a strong and open
dialogue. There are many issues patients
may be afraid to ask about, but your
doctor should build an atmosphere in
which you feel comfortable asking questions. I recommend that you write down
your questions so you have them ready,
making it less likely that something will
First, you should have a clear understanding of your disease. It is important
to understand what kind of cancer you
have and what the treatment options are,
as well as the chance that a treatment
will work and the goals of therapy. Ask
your doctor what to expect and what she
would advise in the short term and in the
Along with knowing the goals of
treatment, patients should really ask
questions about the side effects of
treatments. How will I feel? Are side
effects short term or long term? How
can I combat those side effects?
There are also lifestyle issues. Consider
asking questions like: What will I be doing
in five years? Will I be able to get back to
my job? What about my sex life? What
about my fertility?
In this day and age, it is common for
patients to search for information on the
internet. You may read something online
that worries you. It is OK to bring that to
your doctor’s attention and to ask if what
you have read applies to you.
If you are interested in understanding
survival statistics for your condition, ask
your doctor about them. However, keep
in mind that statistics reveal what has
happened among a large group of people
and don’t necessarily predict what your
experience will be. It is best not to get
too bogged down in the numbers.
When thinking about your prognosis,
it is also worth remembering that cancer
treatment is changing at a rapid pace.
Medications are now making it possible
for more people with cancer to live a fairly
normal life for a longer period of time. You
can also ask your doctor about clinical
trials that may be appropriate for you. It
is a very dynamic time in cancer care, and
the future holds hope for many people
While these recommendations certainly
don’t cover every topic, the most important
thing is feeling confident and empowered
in asking any question. If you feel uncomfortable or don’t feel your questions have
been answered, you may want to seek a
second opinion from another doctor.
PROGNOSIS QUES TIONS //
Cancer.Net features advice on ho w to
ask your doctor about your prognosis. cancer.net/blog/2014-08/talking-
your-doctor-about-prognosis // The National Cancer Institute
explains factors affecting prognosis. cancer.gov/about-cancer/diagnosis-staging/prognosis // Scripps Health offers tips on how to build a
strong doctor-patient relationship. scripps.org/ne ws_items/5394-7-ways-
I’m dating right now. When and
how do I bring up that I’m a
BRANDEE AQUILINO: Cancer patients
and survivors who are getting back into
dating may feel apprehensive about
sharing information about their disease
with their date. But it is probably best
to think about having that conversation
sooner rather than later.
The way you approach the conversation will depend on many factors. One
is timing. People who are two years
post-treatment, two months post-treatment
or currently in treatment will be in very
different places. If you are still actively
coping with your experience of cancer
and its treatment, you might want to
bring it up sooner. Think about where the
cancer falls in your life story.
Another thing to consider is the rela-
tionship you have with the person you are
seeing. How well do you know him or her?
You may want to go on a few dates before
you share this experience, or you may feel
comfortable sharing it immediately. As
your relationship progresses, it is best to be
honest about what you have been through.
You wouldn’t want to find yourself hiding
medications or appointments.
When you are ready to have the cancer
conversation, I recommend first letting
the person know there is something you
want to share about your health. Give
him or her some basic information, such
as when you were diagnosed and the
timeline of your treatment.
You shouldn’t necessarily try to cover it
all in one conversation. I work with a lot
of young adults who have been through
cancer and in some cases, there can be
long-standing issues related to intimacy
or fertility, which may affect your relationship now or in the future. Depending
on the specific details of your cancer and
where the relationship goes, this might
be a continuing conversation.
If it turns out that the person you care
about is not able to be compassionate or
open in the way you hope for, that could be
a red flag. On the other hand, be prepared
to have some patience as your potential
love interest makes sense of the information. It is important to recognize that the
person you are dating may have other
experiences with cancer that you aren’t
aware of. Those factors might influence
the way you proceed together.
CANCER AND DATING // Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer
Center offers advice for cancer survivors on ho w to start dating again.
mskcc.org/blog/dating-and-deciding-when-get-back-out-there-and-ho w-have-cancer-talk // Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research
Center profiles three couples who found love during cancer treatment.
the-time-of-cancer.html // Cleveland Clinic lists six things to keep
in mind when you have cancer and are dating. health.clevelandclinic.