Endorsed by the European Oncology Nursing Society

Getting the most out of your oncologist

Getting the most out of your oncologist image

An oncologist is a medical doctor who specialises in cancer treatment. The oncologist has a very important role in the medical team that cares for you.1 Here are a few tips to help you get the most from your consultation.

Here is some general advice

  • Prepare for your visit: write a list of questions that you want to ask and take it with you2
  • Take notes while you are there: write down the answers to your questions;3 you may want to even bring a tape recorder along to the appointment so you can listen to the conversation again at a later time2
  • Ask a friend or family member to come along with you for emotional or moral support; they may also remember to ask things you have forgotten3
  • Ask for an interpreter if you do not speak the language3
  • A good doctor should repeat information more than once; you can also repeat the oncologist’s words to make sure you understand what you have been told3
  • Be honest about all your symptoms, however embarrassing they may be; your oncologist will have seen and heard it all before3
  • Do not feel you are wasting the oncologist’s time; ask for more information if you do not understand what has been said. You have the right to understand anything and everything related to your disease and your care3
  • Ask for a written summary of what you have been told so that you can read it again later3
  • Do not be afraid to speak frankly with the doctor, and even ask difficult questions4,5
  • If the oncologist uses terms you are unfamiliar with, ask him or her to explain them3
  • Remember, you always have the right to a second opinion4-6

Here are some suggestions for questions you may like to ask

  • What is the name of my specific type of cancer?4
  • What is the normal outcome (or average prognosis) for others like me?4
  • Are you an expert at treating my type of cancer?4
  • What treatments are available, and which do you recommend for me?4,7
  • Why do you think this treatment is the best for me?4
  • What is your goal for my treatment?4
  • When will I start treatment?7
  • How long will my treatment take?7
  • Where will I have to go for treatment, and how often?7
  • Will my treatment hurt?4
  • What are the success rates for this treatment?7
  • If the treatment is successful, what are my chances of the cancer coming back? 4,5
  • Will I have any side-effects?4,7
  • Is there anything I can do to help prevent or manage side-effects?4
  • Will this treatment affect my fertility?4,7
  • If I decide not to have treatment, what is my prognosis and what care will I be offered?8
  • Are any of my family at risk for this type of cancer?9
  • Can I take part in a clinical trial?4,7
  • Do you have any information I can take home to read?3


Above all, remember that you are the most important person in the consultation.6 The oncologist is there for you!



  1. ESMO. A guide for Patients with advanced cancer. Accessed March 2016.
  2. Myday. What to bring to my doctor’s appointment. Accessed July 2016.
  3. Macmillan. Questions to ask. Accessed July 2016.
  4. America Cancer Society. Questions to ask my doctor about my cancer. Accessed March 2016.
  5. Chauhan C, editor. (2006). Incidental finding; essays on renal cell carcinoma. 2nd ed. Wichita, KA: Tallgrass Books, p. 56, 94.
  6. Myday. Be the leader of your team. Accessed July 2016.
  7. National Cancer Institute. Questions to ask your doctor about your treatment. Accessed March 2016.
  8. Macmillan. Questions about treatment. Accessed March 2016.
  9. Cancer Research UK. Family history and inherited cancer genes. Accessed March 2016.