Ask Your Doctor

Ask Your Doctor

Questions to Ask Your Doctor When You Have a Serious Illness

When a doctor advises a patient that they have a serious illness, it is normal to feel overwhelmed and, certainly, in moments like those we cannot possibly know all the questions we should ask or may want to ask until we have had some time to consider what we have been told. What we are offering here are some ideas / questions to consider when faced with such an event. The following questions we have listed are by no means exhaustive nor are they a substitute for professional medical advice. They are designed to help you and your family members and caregivers understand, manage and share important health information related to serious illness diagnoses and treatments.

They are a starting point. It is always wise to write down the questions you might want to ask your doctor. Talk with your family and friends, do an internet search, or go to your local library. Then, you might want to bring your questions and a friend who can be “another ear” for you ~ someone who (1) can remain calm; (2) can be somewhat detached; (3) is practical and good with details and information. Bring a pen and take notes. Remember, you can always get a second opinion.

What’s Important to You?

  • How many cases like mine have you treated before?
  • Will I be included in treatment decision-making?
  • Do you have specific information you can provide to me to help with the decision-making? (hand-outs, other references, support groups?)
  • Who should I contact from your office with problems or questions or in case of an emergency?
  • What hospitals are you affiliated with in case of an emergency or for treatments?
  • How do you think this illness will affect me: short term (6-12 months) and long term (5 years)?
  • Will my insurance cover this treatment? A second opinion?

What’s Important for You to Know About Your Treatment

  • Will we be trying to cure or control my illness?
  • Are my treatments covered by my insurance? Will insurance pay?
  • Will my treatment be painful?
  • Will I have a person who I can call at your office in case I have questions? Hours of availability?
  • What complications should I be aware of or look for?
  • Will I be able to drive? What type of help will I need at home? Can I work?
  • How long will it be before we can evaluate the results of my treatment(s)?