If you think you may have liver cancer, you're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. If your doctor suspects you may have liver cancer, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in diseases of the liver (hepatologist) or 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 and 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, as well as any vitamins or supplements, that you're taking.
- Consider taking 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 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 liver cancer, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What type of liver cancer do I have?
- What is the stage of my liver cancer?
- What does my pathology report say? Can I have a copy of the pathology report?
- Will I need more tests?
- What are my treatment options?
- What are the potential side effects of each treatment option?
- Is there one treatment you recommend over the others?
- How will my treatment affect my daily life?
- How much time can I take to make my decision about liver cancer treatment?
- Should I seek a second opinion?
- Should I see a liver cancer specialist? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover it?
- Are there brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask additional 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 more time later to cover other points you want to address. Your doctor may ask:
July 24, 2013
- 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?
- Management of hepatocellular carcinoma: An update. Alexandria, Va.: American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. http://www.aasld.org/practiceguidelines/Pages/default.aspx. Accessed May 20, 2013.
- What you need to know about liver cancer. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/liver. Accessed May 20, 2013.
- Cirrhosis. National Institute for Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/cirrhosis/. Accessed May 20, 2013.
- Hepatobiliary cancer. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed May 20, 2013.
- Hepatitis B FAQs for the public. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/B/bFAQ.htm. Accessed May 20, 2013.
- Hepatitis C FAQs for the public. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/C/cFAQ.htm. Accessed May 20, 2013.
- Taking time: Support for people with cancer. National Cancer Institute. http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/takingtime. Accessed May 21, 2013.
- Moynihan TJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 26, 2013.