Preparing For Your First Oncology Consultation
James Metz, MD
Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: November 1, 2001
If you are diagnosed with a cancer, you will be referred to an oncologist for evaluation and treatment recommendations. There are actually a number of different types of oncologists. You may see a surgical oncologist who specializes in the surgical resection of cancers. You may also be referred to a radiation oncologist who specializes in the treatment of cancer using radiation therapy. The third type of oncologist is a medical oncologist. These physicians specialize in the use of chemotherapy in the treatment of cancer. All of these physicians work closely together and there are overlapping roles in the treatment of most cancers.
Going to your first oncology consultation can create significant anxiety. There are many questions to be asked by both the patient and physician. A number of things can be done by the patient to prepare for the oncology consultation that can make the whole experience easier. It is important that the patient become an active member of the health care team. Here are some simple recommendations:
- Forward all of your recent medical records including operative reports, pathology reports, and radiology reports to your oncologist.
- Make sure you have any necessary referrals prior to seeing your oncologist
- Bring all of your recent radiology films including x-rays, mammograms, CAT scans, MRI scans, and ultrasounds to your oncology appointment if these exams were performed at another location.
- Bring a family member or close friend to the appointment to take notes and help ask questions.
- Consider bringing a tape recorder and asking permission to tape the conversation with your physician so you can review the details of your conversation.
- Write down questions prior to your consultation.
- Bring pathology slides for review if a surgery diagnosing cancer was done at another institution.
- Consider having your consultation at a multi-disciplinary clinic if this is available in your area.
- Make sure your oncologist?s secretary has received all of the necessary information prior to your visit.
- If you are bringing radiology films to your consultation from an outside location, you may wish to arrive early or drop these films off for review prior to your appointment.
- Bring a list of all of your medications and allergies to medications.
- Bring a list of the physicians and addresses that you want reports of the consultation sent.
- Make sure you bring your health insurance identification card if you have one.
- Get all of your questions answered prior to leaving.
- Get an appointment for follow-up.
- Make sure your have the phone number of your oncologist's secretary.
- Do not become frustrated if additional blood tests, x-rays, or other procedures are necessary prior to getting a final recommendation.
- Keep a journal of tests, procedures, and treatments that includes the date, location, and physician involved.