Sarah Cannon - May 14, 2021

Your first cancer appointment can be overwhelming. Your head may be buzzing with a host of fears, worries, and questions. This checklist will help you prepare for your appointment so you will come away from the visit with the information you need to move forward in your cancer journey with confidence.

Before the appointment, do this:

  1. Write down everything that is on your mind. While not every question can be addressed at the first visit, this will help you get your thoughts in order and give you a solid starting point.
  2. Ask a friend or family member to come with you as a second set of eyes and ears, to listen to what the doctor says, and to take notes for later reference.
  3. When scheduling your appointment, ask if there is a nurse navigator available to provide support, information, and assistance, either during the appointment or afterwards.

At the appointment, ask this:

  1. What kind of cancer do I have? Is it a common type or a rare one? Can it be cured? Controlled?
  2. What stage is it? What does that mean?
  3. Do I have to undergo any further diagnostic tests before we can begin treatment?
  4. Should I see a specialist? Get a second opinion?
  5. What are my treatment options?
  6. Which treatment or combination of treatments would you recommend and why?
  7. Where can I receive treatment — at my local facility or one farther away?
  8. What types of side effects or impact will each option have on me and my lifestyle?
  9. Am I eligible for a clinical trial?
  10. Is there a genetic link to this type of cancer? Should my other family members get tested?
  11. What can I do now and going forward to keep myself in the best possible shape?
  12. Where can I get more information or support?

After the appointment, begin this:

  1. Start a file where you can keep copies of all test results, medication, nutrition and therapy tips, and any other information that relates to your type of cancer, treatment, or healthcare team.
  2. Keep a running list of any questions that occur to you as you move forward, or side effects or problems that develop so you can discuss them with our healthcare team.
  3. Talk with your family about what is happening so they have a better understanding of your disease and how it can affect you physically and psychologically. Speak with office staff about visitor policies to see if you can perhaps bring certain members to appointments with you.

If you have questions about cancer or services in your community, call askSARAH to speak to a nurse available 24/7 at (844) 482-4812 or visit askSARAH online. Sarah Cannon also offers patient education materials on Cancer Education: Learn About Cancer on the Sarah Cannon website.