Talking with healthcare providers about cancer can be overwhelming. It can be hard to take in all of the information. It helps to be prepared.
Make a list of questions and bring it to your appointments. Write the answers down on paper or in a note-taking app on your phone. Ask how the treatment will change your daily life, including your diet and activity. Also be sure to ask how your body will work and how you’ll look and feel after treatment. Ask how well the treatment is expected to work and what the risks and possible side effects are.
You may also want to ask a friend or family member to go with you. They can take notes, write down the answers, and even ask questions you might not think of.
Here are some questions you might want to ask:
Deciding on a treatment
What kind of vulvar cancer do I have?
What is the grade and stage of my cancer? What does this mean?
Has the cancer spread anywhere else in my body?
Are there any other tests I need before treatment starts?
What are my treatment choices?
What treatment do you think is best for me? Why?
What side effects should I expect?
How long will the side effects last?
Will treatment affect my sex life? How? For how long?
Will I be able to have children after treatment?
What are the goals of the treatment you’re recommending?
What’s the success rate of this treatment for my type and stage of vulvar cancer?
What’s the life expectancy for someone with my stage of cancer who gets this treatment?
Are there any clinical trials that I should think about joining? How can I find out?
Will my health insurance cover treatment? Is there someone who can help me with insurance questions?
Will there be costs I have to pay? Is there someone who can help me with financial questions?
Getting ready for treatment
What can I do to get ready for treatment?
Should I follow a special diet?
Do I need to change any of the medicines I take?
Who will be on my treatment team?
Will I have to stay in the hospital? For how long?
How long will the surgery take?
What will you do during the surgery?
Will you have to take out lymph nodes?
What are the risks of surgery?
How will my body look after surgery? Will I need skin grafts or reconstruction?
How will my body work? Will I be able to enjoy sex? Pee normally? Have normal bowel movements?
What will recovery be like? How long will it take?
Chemotherapy or radiation
How long will I get treatment?
How long will each treatment take?
Where do I have to go for the treatment?
Who will give me the treatment?
Does someone need to go with me during treatments?
Can I take my other medicines during treatment?
Coping during treatment
How will we know if treatment is working?
What side effects should I watch for?
Are there side effects that I need to call you about? How soon do I need to call?
How do I reach you after hours and on weekends?
What can I do to help prevent or ease side effects?
Should I change my diet? What foods can’t I eat?
Will I be able to go to work and be around my family?
Are there support groups that I can join?
How will I feel after the treatment?
How will my body look and work after treatment?
What type of follow-up care will I need after treatment?
Who will I need to see for my follow-up care?
What long-term side effects do I need to watch for?
How will we know if treatment worked?
What are the risks of the cancer coming back? What signs and symptoms should I watch for?
What services are available to me as a survivor?