Anal Cancer: What to Ask Your Doctor


If are experiencing symptoms that make you believe you may have anal cancer, it is critical that you schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as you can.  You are probably feeling worried and extremely scared if this is the case. Your primary doctor may have disclosed that anal cancer is a possibility. They may have even referred you to a specialist or a surgeon that treats these types of diseases.  This specialist is called a gastroenterologist. Once you have been diagnosed with anal cancer, you will typically be referred to an Oncologist. This type of specialist works with cancer patients. Appointments sometimes do not provide a lot of time to go over everything that needs to be discussed.  For this reason, you want to make sure that you are prepared when you go for your appointment. Here are some things that you can do to prepare.

What to do


The first thing you want to do is make sure you know of any restrictions before you go to the appointment. This means that when you call and schedule, you should make sure to ask about any paperwork or any steps that you need to take prior to the appointment.  For example, ask if there is anything you need to change your diet. Covering this ground before you go for your appointment can minimize the amount of time spent on the topic during the appointment and free up time to cover other necessary topics.  

Make sure that you make a list of all your symptoms, even ones you think may be unrelated to cancer.  That way, when the doctor asks, you have the symptoms at the ready. This helps ensure nothing is missed and saves time.  Make sure that you write down personal information that is typically asked during a medical history. Include things that increase your stress level and any changes that have taken place in your life (such as income change, getting married, or having a child.)  You should also write down all the medications (over-the-counter and prescribed) that you are currently taking. Ask someone to go to the appointment with you so that you have an extra pair of ears at the appointment. These appointments can be overwhelming. Having an extra person at the appointment can help ensure that more details are remembered. 

You also want to make sure that you write up a list of questions to ask the doctor when you go for the appointment.  You are not going to have a lot of time with your doctor. Therefore, you want to list the questions from the most to the least important so that you can ask the ones that matter most before your time is up.  

What should you ask?


The hardest part of making any list is figuring out what to put on it.  Some people are just natural list makers. We all know someone that make lists of their lists and can follow them with expertise.  However, there are much more than stare at a blank piece of paper having a hard time figuring out what to put on it. Here are some basic things you should go over with your doctor to get you started.  Remember, however, to order the questions based on what you feel is the most important. Everyone is different and everyone has different priorities. With that said, here are some things you might want to ask.

When speaking with your doctor about anal cancer, one of the most important things you are going to want to ask is what stage of cancer do you have.  This affects your overall prognosis and is important to talk about at some point during the visit. You should inquire about any further testing that is needed so that you are prepared for what you are facing.  Make sure that you ask about the different options available for treatment. This is important because what works for one doesn’t work for all. You want to ask about the doctor’s professional opinion of what treatment is best for the stage of cancer that you are facing and what research is available to back up that approach.  Evidence-based practice is normally the safest bet when it’s available. However, clinical trials have been known to work as well. Weigh the risks and benefits before you decide. This means that you need to know if you qualify for any clinical trials and make sure that you inquire about any side effects to each treatment option discussed.  Ask if the professional can recommend any one for a second opinion if you feel a second opinion is warranted. Finally, inquire about what factors determine if you need to follow-up.  





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