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Questions to ask your doctor about radiation therapy

Coping with a diagnosis of cancer and researching the various treatment options can be a stressful experience. To assist you in this process, below is a list of questions you may want to ask your radiation oncologist if you are considering radiation therapy.

Questions to ask before treatment

  • What type and stage of cancer do I have?
  • What is the purpose of radiation treatment for my type of cancer?
  • How will the radiation therapy be given? Will it be external beam or brachytherapy? What do the treatments feel like?
  • For how many weeks will I receive radiation? How many treatments will I receive per week?
  • What are the chances that radiation therapy will work?
  • Can I participate in a clinical trial? If so, what is the trial testing? What are my benefits and risks?
  • What is the chance that the cancer will spread or come back if I do not have radiation therapy?
  • Will I need chemotherapy, surgery or other treatments? If so, in what order will I receive these treatments? How soon after radiation therapy can I start them?
  • How should I prepare for this financially?
  • What are some of the support groups I can turn to during treatment?
  • If I have questions after I leave here, who can I call?
  • Will radiation therapy affect my ability to have children?
  • Do you take my insurance?

Questions to ask during treatment

  • How can I expect to feel during treatment and in the weeks following radiation therapy?
  • Can I drive myself to and from the treatment facility?
  • Will I be able to continue my normal activities?
  • What side effects may occur from the radiation and how are they managed?
  • Do I need a special diet during or after my treatment?
  • Can I exercise?
  • Can I have sex?
  • Can I smoke or drink alcohol?
  • Will side effects change my appearance? If so, will the changes be permanent or temporary? If temporary, how long will they last?
  • Is it safe to take vitamins during treatment?

Questions to ask after treatment ends

  • How and when will you know if I am cured of cancer?
  • What are the chances that the cancer will come back?
  • How soon can I go back to my regular activities? Work? Sexual activity? Aerobic exercise?
  • How often do I need to return for checkups?

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