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Diagnosed With Skin Cancer? Here’s What You Should Ask Your Doctor

Diagnosed with Skin Cancer? Here’s What You Should Ask Your Doctor

Hearing the “C” word is really scary, and it can be difficult to understand anything your doctor says after the word “cancer.” However, it’s so important to understand what’s going on with your health, so this month, we’re sharing some questions that you should ask your doctor after a skin cancer diagnosis. We’re also including some tips to help you get the most out of your appointments.


Questions to ask your doctor

We know that you’re not an expert in skin cancer (that’s what we’re here for!), so we encourage you to ask questions about your diagnosis, treatment options, follow-up care, and what you can do to prevent future incidents of skin cancer.


Questions to ask your doctor about your diagnosis:

  • What kind of skin cancer do I have?
  • How deep is the cancer?
  • Has it spread to other parts of my body?
  • What stage is my cancer/tumor?
  • Do I need any other tests before we can start treatment?
  • Will I need to see any other doctors (ex: radiologist)?


Questions to ask your doctor about your treatment:

  • What are my treatment options? Which do you recommend, and why?
  • Are there risks with my treatment?
  • How soon do I need to make a decision about my options?
  • Will you provide my treatment? If not, who will?
  • When will my treatment start?
  • Where will my treatment take place?
  • How should I prepare for my treatment?
  • What will happen during my appointment(s)? What should I expect on my treatment day?
  • Will I be hospitalized overnight, or can I go home?
  • Do I need to have a loved one stay with me for a few days to monitor my recovery, or is it safe to be home alone?
  • What side effects (if any) will I experience during my treatment?
    • How can I manage my side effects?
  • Will I have a scar?
    • Is there anything I can do to help the scar heal?
  • Will my insurance cover the cost of my treatment?
  • I don’t have adequate insurance coverage. Is there assistance available to help me pay for my treatment?
  • What follow-up care do I need?


Questions to ask your doctor about preventing skin cancer in the future:

  • What are the chances that my cancer will come back?
  • How will I know if the cancer has come back? What warning signs do I need to watch for?
  • Do I have any other suspicious areas that need attention?
  • What steps can I take to protect my skin from future skin cancers?
  • I’ve had a lot of sun exposure in my life. What’s my risk for future skin cancers?
  • How do I catch other skin cancers early before they become a major problem?


Other questions to ask your doctor:

  • How do I tell my family about my diagnosis?
  • I’m feeling overwhelmed/scared/anxious. How do I cope with my diagnosis?
  • Are my family members at a greater risk of skin cancer now? What should they be doing to stay healthy?


How to get the most out of your appointment

How many times have you left a doctor’s appointment only to remember a handful of important questions you meant to ask?

We know that a cancer diagnosis is overwhelming and that it’s really hard to remember what you wanted to ask or what we talked about after you leave our office. Try some of the following tips to help you get the most out of your appointment:

  • Write down any questions you have before your appointment.
  • Bring a pencil and paper to your appointment and write down important information so you can reference it later. Don’t be shy about it! We want you to understand your treatment options so you can make the best decision for your care.
  • Bring someone with you. You may be emotional during your appointment, which is totally normal! Having a second person there can be really helpful so that all of your important questions get asked, and so you have help remembering what you and your dermatologist talked about.
  • Be open and share your symptoms. Your dermatologist won’t know what you don’t tell him or her, so share anything you can think of.
  • Have a list of your current medications and supplements as well as past surgeries ready to share with your doctor.
  • Don’t be shy about asking questions! It’s your body, and you’re the one who needs to understand your diagnosis and treatment options so that you can make decisions about your care. If you don’t understand something, ask your doctor to rephrase it or tell you more.
  • If your doctor gave you any instructions to follow, ask him or her to repeat and recap them at the end of your appointment. If you need to take any steps, like having more tests done or changing your medications, it’s really important that you understand what you need to do.
  • Ask what you should do if you think of other questions or have concerns after leaving the appointment. Can you call the office, or do you need to schedule another appointment?


Take charge of your health!

Your dermatologist is a partner in your health journey, and we encourage you to ask questions, learn about your options, and take time to make the decision that’s right for you. Feel free to print the questions we shared and bring them to your appointment. Don’t forget your pencil!


Center for Surgical Dermatology is Central Ohio’s leader in skin cancer diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. We partner with our patients on their healthy skin journey. If you have questions about your skin, call (614) 847-4100 to schedule an appointment today. 

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