Questions to Ask Your Oncologist About Chemotherapy

Questions to ask oncologist before chemotherapy

According to the CDC, every year, about 650,000 cancer patients receive chemotherapy in an outpatient oncology clinic in the United States. Starting chemotherapy isn’t easy as patients are worried about the process, the outcome, and how they’re going to feel during this time. The key is to get informed about chemotherapy and learn as much as you can. The more you know, the more at ease you’ll be. Lack of information is a major source of stress and concern for many patients, and with this post, we aim to help you out. Scroll down to learn more about questions to ask the oncologist about chemotherapy.

Questions To Ask The Oncologist About Chemotherapy

It’s perfectly natural to have tons of questions in your mind about chemotherapy. But, it’s not uncommon for patients to avoid asking healthcare providers some questions, although this is a highly recommended practice. Don’t think that your oncologist doesn’t want you to ask them something. What’s more, they want you to ask everything you want and need to know because that way they can help you start chemo and learn a lot about it. Below, you can see some important questions you should ask your oncologist.

1. Is Chemotherapy The Best Option For My Condition?

Not all types of cancer are equal. Healthcare professionals recommend the treatment plan that works best for that specific case. One of the first questions to ask oncologist on the first visit is whether chemo is the best choice for your condition and whether there are some other strategies that are worth exploring.

2. What Chemotherapy Drugs will I Be Given?

A common misconception is that chemo is chemo, a single therapy that all cancer patients receive. That’s not quite correct. There are many kinds of chemotherapy drugs. In some cases, patients get a single chemotherapy medication while in others, a combination of drugs is given. Make sure you ask your oncologist about the name of chemotherapy drug you’re going to receive. Like a patient who’s about to undergo this important treatment, you need to know the name of the drug that will treat cancer or delay the progression.

3. Is Chemo Part Of A Larger Plan To Cure Cancer i.e., Is It Going To Delay Metastasis or Just Alleviate Some Symptoms?

Don’t be afraid to ask your oncologist about cancer and treatment for this disease in general, not just chemo. Some cancers are too severe and advanced, so chemotherapy can’t cure them. What treatment can do is to alleviate symptoms in these cases and prevent cancer from spreading. Before you undergo the treatment, it’s practical to ask the doctor about the potential outcome i.e., is chemo going to cure cancer or delay its progression.

4. What Are The Side Effects I Could Expect?

Every medication has potential side effects, and chemotherapy is not the exception. In fact, adverse reactions to chemotherapy are what most patients fear the most. Not knowing what to expect causes even more concern and stress. We’ve all heard about nausea and hair loss, but chemotherapy can also induce other side effects, and it’s important to learn more about them. Not all chemotherapies are equal, and their adverse reactions may vary. Your oncologist will explain all about potential side effects and their plan to tackle them.

5. What Is The Duration Of The Treatment?

Proper administration of the treatment is crucial for the positive outcomes. Chemotherapy is often given in cycles meaning the treatment is repeated on a regular schedule, but there’s also a certain period of time of rest in between. Duration of these cycles depends on the severity of the disease and other factors. Knowing this information allows you to plan ahead and organize your life while you’re getting treated for cancer.

6. How Are You Going To Administer Chemotherapy?

An oncologist can administer chemotherapy in more ways than one. These include IV, oral chemotherapy, injections administered into the muscle, and hepatic arterial infusion (insertion of a small pump under the skin and connecting it to the hepatic artery to administer drugs). Mode of administration is important, especially in the cases when a patient receives multiple chemotherapy drugs as they may be given in different manners. As a patient, you need to know the way of administration so that you can be both mentally and physically prepared.
Other questions to ask

  • Whom should I contact if I have problems?
  • How do I know if chemo is working?
  • What are the options if chemo doesn’t work?
  • What can I do to lower side effects risk?
  • Are there any foods I should avoid?
  • Will I be able to work?


There are many questions to ask your oncologist and don’t be afraid to do so. The more you know, the easier it will be to understand the purpose and goals of the treatment. Also, getting answers to the above-mentioned questions will help you lower stress and prepare for the chemotherapy more effectively.

Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Doctor, author and fitness enthusiast, Ahmed Zayed, MD, is a surgery resident with a passion for helping people live a happy healthy life. He is the author of numerous health-related books and contributor to several medicine, health and wellbeing websites.
Dr. Ahmed Zayed

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