Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If your doctor suspects you may have colon cancer, you'll likely be referred to specialists who treat colon cancer. You may meet with a number of specialists, including a:

  • Doctor who treats digestive diseases (gastroenterologist)
  • Doctor who treats cancer (oncologist)
  • Doctor who removes colon cancer using surgery (surgeon)
  • Doctor who uses radiation to treat cancer (radiation 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, and know what to expect from your doctor.

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 any 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 any major stresses or recent life changes.
  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
  • Consider taking a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to take in 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 will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For colon cancer, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • Where is my colon cancer located in my colon?
  • What is the stage of my colon cancer?
  • Can you explain my pathology report to me?
  • Can I have a copy of my pathology report?
  • Has my colon cancer spread to other parts of my body?
  • Will I need more tests?
  • What are the treatment options for my colon cancer?
  • Will any of the treatments cure my colon cancer?
  • What is the chance that my colon cancer will be cured?
  • How much does each treatment increase my chances that my colon cancer will be cured?
  • What are the potential side effects of each treatment?
  • How will each treatment affect my daily life?
  • Is there one treatment you feel is best for me?
  • What would you recommend to a family member or friend in my same situation?
  • How much time can I take to make my decision about treatment?
  • Should I seek a second opinion?
  • Should I see a specialist? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover it?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
  • Do my siblings or my children have an increased risk of colon cancer?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.

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 to cover other points you want to address. Your doctor may ask:

  • When did you first 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?
  • Do you have a family history of colon cancer or other cancers?
Aug. 22, 2013

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