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Talking to Your Doctor About Colorectal Cancer

You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors and/or experience with colorectal 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, and make sure you understand what you are hearing. Ask for clarification, if necessary.
  • Don't be afraid to ask your questions or ask where you can find more information about what you are discussing. You have a right to know.

Specific Questions to Ask Your Doctor

About Your Risk of Developing Colorectal Cancer

  • Based on my family and medical history, am I at increased risk for colorectal cancer?
  • Are my children or other relatives at higher risk for colorectal cancer?

About Treatment Options

  • What is the stage of my cancer?
  • What treatments are recommended for me?
  • What are the most common side effects associated with these treatment options?
  • Will my treatment require a stay in the hospital? If so, for how long?
  • What possible long-term effects might occur as a result of the surgery or post-surgical treatment?
  • How commonly do these occur? What can be done, if anything, to reduce these effects?
  • Will I need a colostomy? Will it be temporary or permanent?
  • Is this treatment likely to cure my cancer? If not, what treatments are planned to extend my life?
  • What is the probability of a recurrence and what treatment(s) are available to me in the event of a recurrence?
  • After treatment, what type of follow-up should I have?
  • Are there any alternative or complementary therapies that I should consider?

About Lifestyle Changes

  • How will my normal activities change as a result of treatment?
  • Can you recommend support groups in the local area with people I can talk to?
  • Will my sexual function be affected?

About Outlook

  • What side effects should I expect?
  • How long will they last?
  • Which side effects should I report? To whom should I report side effects?
  • What follow-up tests will be done and at what intervals?
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References:

Colorectal cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed January 3, 2017.
Colorectal cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113642/Colorectal-cancer. Updated August 18, 2016. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Tips for talking to your doctor. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/tips-for-talking-to-your-doctor. Updated May 2014. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Last reviewed December 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Last Updated: 12/1/2015

 

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