If your doctor suspects or has diagnosed nasopharyngeal cancer, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in treating cancer (oncologist) or to a doctor who specializes in ear, nose and throat problems (otolaryngologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and it can be difficult to remember everything you want to discuss, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here are some suggestions for getting ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing. Include all of your symptoms, even if you don't think they're related.
- Make a list of any medications or vitamin supplements you take. Write down doses and how often you take them.
- Take a family member or close friend with you. You may be given a lot of information at your visit, and it can be difficult to remember everything. Someone who accompanies you may help with details that you missed or forgot.
- Take a notebook or notepad with you. That way you can write down important information, such as treatment options.
- Prepare a list of questions to ask your doctor. Knowing ahead of time what you want to ask your doctor can help you make the most of your limited time together.
List your most important questions first, in case time runs out. For nasopharyngeal carcinoma, some basic questions to ask include:
- What kinds of tests will I need?
- Do I need to do anything to prepare for these tests?
- Other than nasopharyngeal cancer, are there any possible causes for these symptoms?
- What type of nasopharyngeal cancer do I have?
- Has the cancer spread beyond the nasopharynx? Beyond the lymph nodes?
- What stage is my cancer?
- What is the usual treatment for this stage of cancer?
- Do you recommend that radiation and chemotherapy be done at the same time?
- How successful is each treatment on its own and when combined?
- What are the side effects of radiation?
- What are the side effects of chemotherapy?
- Is surgery an option?
- How should I prepare for treatment?
- Which course of action do you recommend?
- What are the odds of recurrence?
- Should I modify my diet in any way?
- What is my prognosis?
- Are any clinical trials available to me?
And, if your doctor says something that's not clear, don't hesitate to ask questions until you understand completely.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor will likely have a number of questions for you. If you're ready to answer them, it may save time for more of your questions. Some potential questions your doctor might ask include:
Sept. 08, 2012
- When did you first notice these symptoms?
- How often do you experience these symptoms?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- Does anything improve your symptoms?
- Does anything make your symptoms worse?
- What is your typical diet?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus or mononucleosis?
- Flint PW, et al. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05283-2..X0001-8--TOP&isbn=978-0-323-05283-2&uniqId=230100505-57. Accessed July 24, 2012.
- Head and neck cancers. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed July 24, 2012.
- Nasopharyngeal cancer treatment. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/nasopharyngeal/healthprofessional. Accessed July 24, 2012.
- Rottey S, et al. Modern treatment for nasopharyngeal carcinoma: Current status and prospects. Current Opinion in Oncology. 2011;23:254.
- Hui EP, et al. Epidemiology, etiology and diagnosis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed July 24, 2012.
- Moynihan TJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 12, 2012.
- Hui EP, et al. Treatment of early locoregionally advanced nasopharyngeal carcinoma. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed July 24, 2012.
- Dry mouth or xerostomia. Cancer.Net. http://www.cancer.net/patient/All+About+Cancer/Treating+Cancer/Managing+Side+Effects/Dry+Mouth+or+Xerostomia. Accessed July 24, 2012.