Colorectal Cancer Frequently Asked Questions

When making up your mind about colorectal cancer treatment, you must know every detail about the treatment you opt for. It would be best if you asked questions about anything about colorectal cancer that you don’t understand.

Don’t forget that you can ask your healthcare team questions during your treatment and after the treatment. 

Questions to ask after getting a diagnosis

  • What are my treatment options?
  • Is there any clinical trial available currently I can take part in? How do I find out about them?
  • What treatment plan do you suggest? Why?
  • What is the goal of the treatment? Is it to eliminate cancer, help me feel better, or both?
  • What are the side effects of treatment, both short term and long term?
  • Can we change our minds after we start the treatment?
  • What will be the effects of the treatment on my daily life?
  • Can my child work, exercise and perform his daily activities?
  • Could this treatment affect my sex life and reproductive organs?
  • Could this treatment affect my ability to get pregnant or have children? 
  • What about the cost of the treatment?
  • What support services are there for my family and me?

Questions to ask before colorectal cancer surgery

  • Where exactly is cancer located?
  • What do you know about my cancer?
  • Will I have radiation therapy and chemotherapy before my surgery if I have rectal cancer?
  • What other tests will be performed before surgery?
  • Can you explain the surgery I will be having?
  • Is a biopsy part of the surgery?
  • How soon after surgery will I have all the test results and a firm diagnosis?
  • Do you think I may require a temporary or permanent colostomy?
  • Is this a standard type of surgery in my case?
  • What is your familiarity with the operation you will perform?
  • How will the pain be managed post-surgery?
  • What other side effects are possible with this surgery?
  • Can you describe what my recovery from surgery will be like?

Questions after colorectal cancer surgery

  • What is my diagnosis from the results of surgery and biopsy reports in TNM staging format?
  • Can you describe the pathology report to me?
  • Did the pathologist test my tumour for a possible genetic cause? Do I need genetic counselling or testing?
  • Does my colorectal cancer diagnosis signify that my relatives have a higher chance of having colorectal cancer? Should they talk to the doctors about screening?
  • Will the cancer be tested for mutations or other genetic conditions, like MSI-H or dMMR?
  • How will additional treatment post-surgery affect my prognosis?
  • What additional treatment do you suggest? Why?
  • What are the risks and benefits of adjuvant chemotherapy? 
  • What is the aim of treatment?
  • Is it a standard treatment or clinical trial?
  • How long will it take to return to work after surgery?

Questions to ask about having radiation therapy

  • What type of treatment is suggested for colorectal cancer?
  • What is the aim of this treatment?
  • How long will it take for this treatment?
  • What side effects are expected during treatment?
  • What are the possible long-term effects of taking this colorectal cancer treatment?
  • Whom can I contact if I experience any side effects? And how soon?
  • How can I relieve the side effects?

Questions about having therapies using medications

  • What type of medication is recommended?
  • What is the goal of this particular treatment?
  • How long will this treatment last?
  • Will I receive this treatment at a clinic or hospital? Or can I take it at home?
  • What side effects are expected during colorectal cancer treatment?
  • Whom should I talk to if I experience any side effects? And how soon?
  • What are the possible long-term effects of receiving this treatment?
  • What do I do to relieve the side effects?

Questions about planning follow-up care of colorectal cancer

  • What is the probability that colorectal cancer will return? Should I watch for specific symptoms and signs?
  • How often will I need to take CEA testing? Where will it be done?
  • How often do I need to take a CT scan? Where will it be done?
  • How often do I need to take a colonoscopy? Who will perform it, and where will it be done?
  • (Rectal cancer only) How often do I need a rectosigmoidoscopy?
  • What long-term or late effects are possible depending on the cancer treatment I received?
  • What follow-up tests will I require, and how often will those tests be required?
  • What follow-up care do I need beyond five years post-treatment?
  • Who will have my treatment summary, and how can I take them and a survivorship care plan to keep in my records?
  • Who will be leading my follow-up care?
  • Which survivorship support services are available to me? To my family?