March 14, 2018

Checklist: What questions to ask your oncologist


If the diagnosis is cancer, use this checklist with your doctor to make sure you leave no question unanswered.

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is scary and comes with more questions than it seems possible to track. We’re here to help you and your family be informed and educated about your cancer and options. Below are some important questions to take to your or your loved one’s next oncologist visit so no question goes unanswered. Add your own questions, too, and remember: It’s always a good idea to ask a loved one to go along to your appointment to take notes.

General questions

  • What is the name of my cancer?
  • Which part of my body is affected?


  • Why do I need these tests?
  • What will you learn from this test?
  • How accurate is this test?
  • Is there any risk to the test?
  • Will the result of this test make any difference to the treatment you provide?
  • What are the results of the test I already had?


  • What treatments are available for my type of cancer?
  • What treatments do you recommend?
  • How long will the treatment last?
  • What are the possible side effects of the treatment?
  • Can the side effects be prevented or controlled?
  • Are the side effects temporary or permanent?
  • How is the treatment given?
  • How does the treatment work?
  • Will I receive treatment as an outpatient or be admitted to the hospital?
  • How much will the treatment cost?
  • What if this treatment does not work?

Clinical trials

  • Would a clinical trial or investigational treatment be appropriate for me?
  • What benefit is there for me?
  • What are the risks?
  • Why are these studies important?
  • What are the goals of the study?
  • Do I have the right to refuse?
  • Can I withdraw from the clinical trial anytime?

Learn more

The Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center is a national leader in patient care and research. Vanderbilt offers the region’s most complete range of oncology care, from advanced imaging to team-based treatment options to genetic cancer medicine and the latest in therapies being studied in clinical trials.