What to Ask: Cancer

Normal cells grow and multiply according to their genetic programming. Over time, genetic damage can occur that causes a cell to grow abnormally. Sometimes, this process is not harmful, producing a benign tumor that grows slowly, much like a skin wart. Other times, cells grow out of control, invading nearby tissues or other parts of the body. This type of malignant growth is commonly referred to as cancer. The medical study of cancer and its treatment is called oncology. Physicians who specialize in oncology are called oncologists.

Here are questions you can ask your oncologist about cancer:

  1. Is cancer common in older people?
  2. What is a tumor? Is it different from cancer?
  3. How many types of treatment are there for cancer?
  4. What is chemotherapy?
  5. What is radiation therapy?
  6. Are all cancers treated the same way?
  7. What questions do I need to ask my oncologist when I am offered a treatment?
  8. What is the benefit of getting treatment?
  9. What are the risks and side effects of treatment?
  10. Will the treatment cure me or just help my symptoms?
  11. Do I have to take the treatment the healthcare provider offered?
  12. I'm hearing a lot about alternative treatments for cancer that involve the use of herbal remedies or special nutrition supplements. Are they advisable?