Make an appointment with your family doctor or a general practitioner if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you. If your doctor thinks you have anal cancer, you may be referred to a surgeon or a specialist who treats digestive diseases (gastroenterologist). Once a cancer diagnosis is made, you may also be referred to a doctor who specializes in treating cancer (oncologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Write down symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For anal cancer, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is the stage of my anal cancer?
- What other tests do I need?
- What are my treatment options?
- Is there one treatment that's best for my type and stage of cancer?
- What are the potential side effects for each treatment?
- Should I seek a second opinion? Can you give me names of specialists you recommend?
- Am I eligible for clinical trials?
- Are there brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
- What will determine whether I should plan for a follow-up visit?
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may allow time later to cover points you want to address. Your doctor may ask:
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- When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
- Deng GE, et al. Evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for integrative oncology: Complementary therapies and botanicals. Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology. 2009;7:85.
- Anal carcinoma. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed May 23, 2013.
- Anal cancer treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/anal/patient. Accessed May 23, 2013.
- Gardasil (prescribing information). Whitehouse Station, N.J.: Merck & Co. Inc.; 2013. http://www.gardasil.com. Accessed May 23, 2013.
- Cervarix (prescribing information). Research Triangle Park, N.C.: GlaxoSmithKline; 2012. http://us.gsk.com/html/medicines/index.html#vaccines. Accessed May 23, 2013.
- Taking time: Support for people with cancer. National Cancer Institute. http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/takingtime. Accessed May 28, 2013.
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