Preparing for your appointmentBy Mayo Clinic staff
Start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you. Your doctor may recommend tests and procedures to investigate your signs and symptoms. If your doctor determines you have pancreatic cancer, you may be referred to:
- A doctor who treats cancer (oncologist)
- A doctor who uses radiation to treat cancer (radiation oncologist)
- A surgeon who specializes in operations involving the digestive tract
- A doctor who diagnoses and treats digestive conditions (gastroenterologist)
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, and know what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
- Consider taking a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For pancreatic cancer, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- Do I have pancreatic cancer?
- What is the stage of my cancer?
- Will I need additional tests?
- Can my cancer be cured?
- What are my treatment options?
- Can any treatment help me live longer?
- What are the potential risks of each treatment?
- Is there one treatment you feel is best for me?
- What advice would you give a friend or family member in my situation?
- I'm currently experiencing these signs and symptoms. What can be done to help me feel more comfortable?
- Should I see a specialist? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover it?
- Am I eligible for a clinical trial?
- Are there brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions that occur to you during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may allow more time to cover other points you want to address. Your doctor may ask:
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
- What you need to know about cancer of the pancreas. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/pancreas. Accessed Feb. 28, 2012.
- Abeloff MD, et al. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2008:1595.
- Pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed Feb. 28, 2012.
- Tarceva (prescribing information). Farmingdale, N.Y.: OSI Pharmaceuticals Inc.; 2011. http://www.tarceva.com/pancreatic/considering/index.jsp. Accessed March 5, 2012.
- Clark KL, et al. Psychological distress in patients with pancreatic cancer - An understudied group. Psycho-Oncology. 2010;19:1313.
- Distress management. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed Feb. 28, 2012.