10 questions oncologists wish their patients would ask
Posted On January 21, 2023
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Oncology is a serious disease that can affect anyone. It can also be a scary one for patients and their loved ones. The first step to having a positive view of the situation is to learn as much as you can about the disease, how it is diagnosed, how it will be treated, and what the prognosis is. While it’s important to ask your doctor any and every question you have, there are certain ones they might not be able to answer because they haven’t been asked before or they’re just plain difficult to answer. That being said, here are 8 Oncology-specific questions to ask your doctor:
How does cancer start?
The cause of most types of cancer is still unclear, but researchers have identified certain risk factors that are thought to increase a person’s chance of developing the disease. Smoking is the main risk factor for lung, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers, while obesity increases the risk of several cancers, including breast, endometrial, and prostate cancers. Obesity, in particular, is a large risk factor for kidney cancer. Researchers are also looking into how diet and other things in the environment affect the growth of certain cancers.
What are the symptoms of cancer?
Early-stage cancers do not usually cause symptoms. Signs of advanced-stage cancers might include a lump in the breast, blood in the urine, back pain, vision problems, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. Some advanced cancers might cause an abnormal neck, arm, stomach, or groin lump that’s usually painless. People with these types of non-malignant growths should be checked out by a doctor because it might be a sign of cancer.
How long does it take for a person with cancer to die?
This can depend on the type and stage of cancer a person has and other factors like the person’s age, overall health, and treatment. The average age at death for patients with lung cancer is 72 years old, while patients with pancreatic cancer have a somewhat younger average age at death of 63 years old. The cause of death can vary as it might be related to cancer, the treatments a person has gone through, or other factors, but is usually linked to a shorter lifespan.
Is there any way to prevent or treat cancer?
Studies are ongoing to try to find a way to prevent or stop cancer from happening in the first place. For example, scientists are exploring ways to use viruses and other types of cellular manipulation to make cells repair themselves instead of turning cancerous. They’re also investigating dietary changes and physical activity to lower the risk of developing certain cancers. Many of these studies are in the early stages, so researchers don’t know if they’ll be successful at preventing or stopping cancer.
Should I get screened for cancer?
These days, most people who develop cancer are diagnosed at an advanced stage. In this case, getting screened for cancer is usually not recommended. People can ask their doctor if they have any concerns about their health and get screened for things like diabetes, high cholesterol, and other factors. If a person wants to get checked for certain types of cancer, like prostate, they should speak to their doctor first and get a full evaluation.
If I’m diagnosed with cancer, what are my treatment options?
For most types of cancers, the first step is to remove as much of the tumor as possible to keep the patient alive as long as possible. Depending on the type and stage of cancer, doctors might aim to cut out one-third to half of the tumor, although this is an average and might be different in each patient’s case. Other treatment options include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation, and surgery. The exact treatment a person receives depends on various factors, including the type and stage of cancer, the person’s general health, and the person’s preference. Some treatments might have unwanted side effects that a person wants to avoid, like chemotherapy.
What kinds of oncology jobs exist?
There are various jobs related to oncology and the medical field, including researchers, medical technicians, sales representatives, and insurance brokers. There are also many jobs in healthcare administration, training for doctors and nurses, and working in health benefits.
Is there anything I can do to ease my anxiety about having this disease?
Some people are afraid that others might notice that they’re sick, which can lead to anxiety. Being open to your health with your family, friends, and coworkers can help ease this fear. If your anxiety is causing a problem in your life, many resources can help you. Talking to a therapist, asking a family member to help you, or searching online for anxiety management techniques can help ease your symptoms.
Cancer is complicated and comes with many challenges. But with the right information and support, it can also be a worthy challenge that leads to better health and increased quality of life. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer, we hope you’ll take the time to learn more about the disease and find the support you need to overcome it.
Dr. Ronald Bissell is a retired surgeon, author of 6 books on Personal and Spiritual Growth, writer of numerous articles and facilitator of workshops. He has been giving talks to help people with life-threatening diseases for the past 10 years. After three years of chemotherapy he recently had a bone marrow transplant to treat Multiple Myeloma. His work now involves helping others with life-threatening diseases as well as teaching people how to live their best lives without fear or anxiety.