Questions to Ask Your Healthcare Team About Head and Neck Cancer

Patients will have a lot of queries in their minds concerning their disease condition. Open communication with the doctor and health care team is crucial in making informed choices regarding cancer treatment and care, hence below is a list of questions patients can ask their healthcare team regarding head and neck cancer. Patients are also encouraged to ask additional vital questions relevant to their condition.

Patients are advised to take a family member or friend while going for appointments. So that you can note everything that the doctor recommends and prescribes, and as a source of support.

Questions to ask regarding disease diagnosis:

  • What are the different types of head and neck cancer? What is my disease condition?
  • Where is the actual location of the cancerous growth?
  • What is the grade and stage of my tumour? What does that indicate?
  • Could you explain in detail my laboratory test results or pathology reports?
  • Did HPV cause the tumour? Is it necessary to detect whether the disease condition was caused by Human papillomavirus?
  • Should I seek any second opinion or additional consultation? Could you recommend any other physician with whom I can talk?

Questions to ask regarding choosing the treatment plan:

  • What are the available treatment options to treat and cure this disease condition?
  • Which treatment strategy would you recommend and why?
  • Am I eligible to avail of clinical trials? Are there clinical trials available for my condition? If so, where can I find them? How can I get more information about clinical trials?
  • What is the aim of each treatment strategy? Is it to destroy the tumour growth, make me feel better, or both?
  • What should I expect post-treatment?
  • Who are the members of my health care team? What are the role and duties of each member? 
  • Who will be leading the whole treatment plan?
  • Should I consult a speech-language specialist before the treatment course begins?
  • Should I consult an oncologic dentist? If so, could you recommend one?
  • How can I manage the cost of cancer treatment and care? Where can I seek help?
  • Are there any support services available for my family and me? How do I get in touch with them?

Questions regarding Managing and relieving side effects: 

  • What are the possible long-term and short-term side effects of the treatment? Explain in detail.
  • Will this treatment affect my day-to-day life and activities? Will it interfere with my ability to work, exercise, and perform other usual tasks?
  • What steps would I take to manage and relieve the probable side effects of the treatment?
  • Will post-treatment care focus on curing the side effects of cancer treatment?

Questions to ask about having any surgical procedures:

  • Is surgery a part of my treatment plan? Is it necessary to treat my disease condition?
  • What types of surgical procedures are performed to treat this type of cancer? 
  • Instead of surgery, can we use a chemo procedure or radiation therapy to destroy the tumour growth?
  • What type of surgical procedure is available to treat my disease condition, additionally, which one would you recommend and why?
  • Will the surgical procedure include the removal of any lymph nodes? What kind of neck dissection would be done if that is the case, and what does that indicate?
  • What is the duration of the surgical procedure?
  • How long will I need to spend in the hospital or care facility?
  • Could you describe how my treatment recovery would look like?
  • Whom or where should I contact if I experience any side effects due to treatment, and how soon?
  • Can these surgical procedures cause any side effects? Could you explain the short term and long-term side effects, if any, of surgery? 
  • Will the surgical procedure affect my speech, swallowing, or chewing capability?
  • Will this surgical procedure affect the way I look and if so, in what way?
  • Would I need to have reconstructive surgery to replace the lost tissues?

Questions to ask regarding the use of medicated therapies like systemic therapy or radiation therapy: 

  • Can we use medicated medicines in treating my disease condition?
  • What are the types of therapies available? Explain.
  • Which therapy type would you recommend and why?
  • What is the aim of each therapy?
  • What is the mode of this therapy? 
  • Where would this treatment be conducted? In a hospital, clinic, or at my home?
  • For how long am I expected to continue this therapy?
  • What all side effects should I expect during and post-treatment?
  • Explain both the short-term and long-term side effects of medication-assisted therapies?
  • What are the ways to prevent and manage these side effects?

Questions to ask regarding planning the follow-up care:

  • Will I require any therapies like speech therapy, physical therapy, or any other mode of rehabilitation post-treatment procedures?
  • Is there a chance that cancer may recur back in the body? If so, what is the chance? 
  • How do we treat such an issue of cancer recurrence?
  • Should I watch for specific symptoms or signs that may indicate a possible cancer recurrence?
  • What follow-up check-ups, tests and scans would be required to analyse my health condition?
  • How long will I be required to continue this follow-up routine?
  • Who will be leading my follow-up care?
  • Can I get a summary of my treatment and survivorship care plan to keep in my records for future reference?
  • Are there any survivorship support services available for my family and me?