Regular communication with your doctor is important in making informed decisions about your health care. Whether you are dealing with a suspicion, diagnosis or coping with the side effects of chemotherapy, it is important to know what questions to ask your doctor so as to best equip yourself in the prevention, management and treatment of the disease. The more information you have about colorectal cancer, the easier it will be to make important, informed decisions.

Colorectal Cancer Canada has designed a comprehensive list of questions for patients to ask their treating physician according to the set of circumstances in which the patient finds himself as well as the modality of treatment sought.


Questions To Ask Your Doctor About Colorectal Cancer Screening

  • Based on my family and medical history, do I have any of the risk factors that would make me likely to develop colorectal cancer?
  • Are my children or other relatives at higher risk for colorectal cancer?
  • If I have any of the risk factors, are there any changes I can make to place me at less risk?
  • What are the signs and symptoms that I should be aware of?
  • Should I have any of the tests that would screen me for colorectal cancer?
  • If so, what screening test(s) do you recommend for me?
  • How do I prepare for these tests? Do I need to change my diet or my usual medication schedule?
  • What is involved in the test? Will it be uncomfortable or painful? Is there any risk involved?
  • When and from whom will I obtain my results?
  • If I am to have a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, who will do the exam?
  • Will I require someone with me on the day of the exam?
  • How often will I be requiring a colonoscopy?

Questions To Ask Your Doctor About Suspicion of Colorectal Cancer

  • What makes you suspect that I have colorectal cancer?
  • What other medical conditions might be causing my symptoms?
  • What are the common risk factors for colorectal cancer?
  • Am I at increased risk for the disease? Why or why not?
  • What types of examinations and diagnostic tests are performed to diagnose cancer of the colon or rectum?
  • What do these tests involve?
  • How should I prepare for these colorectal cancer tests?
  • Instructions:
  • Will I be able to drive myself home after my test(s) or will I require someone to drive me?
  • Will I require any special assistance at home after undergoing these diagnostic procedures?
  • Should I call for my test results or will someone contact me?
  • Date to Call:
  • Telephone Number to Call:

Questions To Ask Your Doctor Upon Diagnosis of Colorectal Cancer

  • What type of colon cancer do I have?
  • What stage is my cancer?
  • What is my prognosis?
  • What doctors do you recommend?
  • Will you permit me to audio-tape our consultations?
  • What type of colon cancer do I have?
  • Where exactly is the cancer located in the colon?
  • Are you able to tell me if my cancer has spread beyond my colon?
  • Are you able to tell me the stage of my cancer?
  • If not, what are the tests that I will require to determine what stage my cancer is in?
  • Are there other tests that need to be done before we can decide on treatment?
  • Are you able to tell me how quickly the cancer is likely to grow?
  • Will it make a difference if I were to change my diet?
  • Does my diagnosis mean that my blood relatives are at higher risk for colorectal cancer? Should they talk to their doctors about screening?
  • What are my treatment options based on my diagnosis?
  • What treatment option do you recommend? Why?
  • What is my prognosis based on type and possible stage of colorectal cancer?
  • What other doctors will I be required to see for the treatment of my disease? Should I see a surgeon? Medical oncologist? Radiation oncologist? Should these doctors be involved in planning my treatment before we begin?
  • Specialists:
  • How do I contact the members of my health care team?
  • Telephone Numbers to Call:
  • Am I a candidate for surgical removal of the colorectal tumour? If so, what type of surgical procedure do you recommend?
  • If so, should I have surgery by a certain date?
  • Should I obtain a second medical opinion before beginning cancer treatment? Why or why not?

A larger more comprehensive list of questions related to the diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer is available here


Questions on Securing a Second Opinion

Some patients may find it difficult to tell their doctors that they would like to seek out a second opinion. Knowing that it is quite common for patients to seek out a second opinion may help in the pursuit of that second opinion. And most doctors are comfortable with the request. If you are uncertain as to how to begin, the following list of questions may aid in addressing the subject with your doctor:

  • Before we start treatment, I would like to get a second opinion. Will you assist me with that?
  • If you had my type of cancer, who would you see for a second opinion?
  • I think I would like to speak to another doctor to be sure I have all my bases covered.
  • I’m thinking of seeking out a second opinion. Can you recommend someone? If so, who would you recommend and why?

Checklist of Documents to Keep Copies of

At some point, even if you do not change doctors before or during treatment, you may find yourself in the office of a new doctor involved in the treatment or management of your disease. It is important that you be able to give your new doctor the exact details of your diagnosis and treatment. The following checklist will aid in the sharing of your information with the new doctor and it is recommended that you always keep copies for yourself:

  • A copy of the pathology report from any biopsy or surgery
  • If you have had surgery, a copy of the surgical report
  • If you have been admitted to hospital, a copy of the discharge summary that every doctor must prepare when patients are sent home
  • If you have had radiation therapy, a final summary of the dose and field
  • Since some drugs can have long terms side effects, a list of all your drugs, drug doses, and when you took them (including over-the-counter drugs)