Talking to Your Doctor About Pancreatic Cancer
Michael Jubinville, MPH
You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it's essential to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors or experience with pancreatic cancer. By talking openly and regularly with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care.
General Tips for Gathering Information
Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your doctor:
- Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask.
- Write out your questions ahead of time, so you don't forget them.
- Write down the answers you get. Make sure you understand what you are hearing. If you don't, tell the doctor. Ask for educational materials.
- Ask where you can find more information. You have a right to know.
Specific Questions to Ask Your Doctor
About Your Risk of Developing Pancreatic Cancer
- Do I have any certain risks for pancreatic cancer?
- Are there any that I can change?
- Are my children at risk and when do they need to be screened?
About Pancreatic Cancer
- What is pancreatic cancer?
- What parts of the body are involved?
- What makes you think I might have pancreatic cancer?
- How can we find out if I have this type of cancer?
- Could you explain the tests I need?
- How accurate are the test results?
- If I have pancreatic cancer, what kind of lifespan do you think I may have?
- What kind of information can you find out from tests?
About Treatment Options
- What kinds of treatments are appropriate for me?
- Will I need more than one type?
- How long will my treatments last?
- What are the potential side effects or complications?
- What are the chances for a cure?
- How will we know whether the treatments have been effective or not?
- Will I be able to participate in my usual activities?
- Can you help me weigh the benefits of the treatments versus the effect they may have on my quality of life?
About Lifestyle Changes
- What kinds of lifestyle changes can I make to avoid developing pancreatic cancer?
- If I’ve already been diagnosed with this condition, what kinds of lifestyle changes should I make? What would make me stronger and more comfortable as I go through treatments?
- Can you recommend a support group?
- How extensive is my cancer?
- Has the cancer progressed to other parts of my body?
- What kind of prognosis does my kind of pancreatic cancer have?
- How do my other medical conditions affect my prognosis?
- Once I’ve completed treatments, what will we do to monitor whether the cancer returns?
Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/pancreatic-adenocarcinoma. Accessed October 3, 2020.
Getting the most out of your doctor appointment. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/tips-for-talking-to-your-doctor. Accessed October 3, 2020.
Questions to ask your doctor about cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/coping/questions. Accessed October 3, 2020.
What should you ask your health care team about pancreatic cancer? American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreatic-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/talking-with-doctor.html. Accessed October 3, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP