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Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Advanced Cancer

Advanced cancer is cancer that has spread to other places in the body and usually cannot be cured or controlled with treatment. If you learn that you have advanced cancer, you may have choices to make about care and next steps. When you meet with your doctor, consider asking some of the following questions. 

General questions when cancer is advanced or recurs (comes back)

  • What does “advanced cancer” mean for me?
  • How long can I live with advanced cancer?
  • Are there tests I should have now to better understand the extent of my cancer?
  • What are my treatment choices? Which do you recommend for me? Why?
  • What happens if I decide not to have treatment for my cancer?
  • Can you suggest a support group that might help me?

Questions about clinical trials

  • Would a clinical trial (research study) be right for me?
  • How do I find out about studies for my type and stage of cancer?

Questions about symptom management and palliative care

  • How can I manage the symptoms of my advanced cancer or the side effects of its treatment?
  • Can you refer me to a palliative care specialist to help me cope with my cancer and its treatment?

Questions about moving from cancer treatment to hospice care

  • How do I decide whether to continue or stop cancer treatment?
  • When should I consider having hospice care?
  • How can I make sure I have the best quality of life possible – that I am free of pain and comfortable?
  • Can I have hospice care in my home, or do I have to go to a special facility?
  • How can I get help with financial and legal issues (for example, paying for hospice care, preparing a will or an advance directive)?
  • How can I get help with my spiritual needs?
  • Posted: February 14, 2012