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Questions to ask your doctor

Asking questions of your doctor can help you make more informed decisions about your care. Open communication between patient and doctor is extremely important. Here are answers to some common questions lung cancer patients should ask their doctors:

How much experience do you have treating my type and stage of lung cancer?

Lung cancer is a serious disease, and pursuing an appropriate, aggressive treatment plan as soon as possible is important. Oncologists who are not only experienced in treating cancer but in treating your type of cancer are better equipped to explain the full list of available treatment options. Do not be afraid to ask whether your doctor has extensive experience treating a specific type and stage of lung cancer and whether he or she is a board-certified specialist.

How successful have you been in treating patients with my type and stage of lung cancer?

Doctors and the facilities they may work for are not required by law to publish the survival rates of the patients they treat, but some choose to do so. Others may be willing to provide these statistics upon request. Learning as much as possible about your doctor and the facilities he or she uses can help you come to a more balanced, well-rounded decision about your care options.

Why should I get a second opinion?

Having confidence in your doctor and treatment plan is crucial when fighting cancer. A second opinion can confirm the type and stage of the disease, and provide you with additional information about the cancer and available treatment options. A second opinion may also help you feel more confident in your treatment plan, and help you find a doctor you really like. Getting a second opinion is your right, so you should not be intimidated about telling your doctor about your desire to get a second opinion.   

How accurate are diagnostic tests for lung cancer?

A wide range of diagnostic evaluations may be used to determine or confirm a lung cancer diagnosis. They include X-rays, lab rests, a CT angiogram, CT scan, biopsy, bronchoscopy, lung nodule analysis, PET scan and endobronchial ultrasound. Advances in technology have led to more accurate and thorough diagnostics for lung cancer and can help you develop an appropriate treatment plan for your type and stage of lung cancer. That is why it is important to find a doctor and facility with access to advanced diagnostic tools to evaluate the disease—before, during and after treatment. 

How important is the stage of my lung cancer?

Staging refers to where the cancer originated, its size and whether it has spread. Making an informed decision about your treatment plan starts with knowing whether and how far the disease has spread.

Small cell lung cancer is diagnosed in two stages:
  • Limited stage, when cancer is found in one lung, sometimes including nearby lymph nodes
  • Extensive stage, when the cancer has spread to the other lung, the fluid around the lung (the pleura) or to other organs in the body
  • Non-small cell lung cancer, which has five stages, ranging from 0 to IV, with IV being the most severe

Find more questions to ask about lung cancer.

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