Preparing for your appointmentBy Mayo Clinic staff
Your first appointment will usually be with either your primary care doctor or a gynecologist. If your doctor or gynecologist suspects or diagnoses cancer, you'll likely be referred to a gynecologic oncologist who specializes in surgery for gynecologic cancers.
Because appointments can be brief, and it can be difficult to remember everything you want to discuss, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here are some suggestions for preparing, and what you can 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 can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For vulvar cancer, some basic questions to ask include:
- What kinds of tests will I need?
- Do I need to do anything to prepare for these tests?
- Other than vulvar cancer, are there any other possible causes for these symptoms?
- What type of vulvar cancer do I have?
- What stage is my cancer?
- What types of surgical options are available to me?
- What kind of success rates does each type of surgery have?
- What are the drawbacks to each type of surgery?
- Will I need to wear an ostomy bag?
- What about radiation or chemotherapy? Are those options available to me?
- What kind of success rates do those therapies have?
- What types of side effects does each treatment have?
- How will these treatments affect my sexuality?
- Will I be able to have children after treatment?
- How should I prepare for treatment?
- Which course of action do you recommend?
- What are the odds of recurrence?
- What is my prognosis?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions that occur to you.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor will likely have a number of questions for you. Some questions your doctor might ask include:
- When did you first notice these symptoms?
- How often do you experience these symptoms?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- Does anything improve your symptoms?
- Does anything make your symptoms worse?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with lichen sclerosus?
- Have you ever had an abnormal Pap test?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with HPV?
- Abeloff MD, et al. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-4/0/1709/0.html. Accessed Aug. 1, 2012.
- Lentz GM, et al. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/linkTo?type=bookPage&isbn=978-0-323-06986-1&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-06986-1..C2009-0-48752-X--TOP. Accessed Aug. 1, 2012.
- Fuh KC, et al. Current management of vulvar cancer. Hematology/Oncology Clinics of North America. 2012;26:45.
- Carter JS, et al. Vulvar and vaginal cancer. Obstetrics & Gynecology Clinics of North America. 2012;39:213.
- Elkas JC, et al. Vulvar cancer: Staging, treatment and prognosis. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Aug. 1, 2012.
- Surgery for cancer of the vulva (vulvectomy). American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/PhysicalSideEffects/SexualSideEffectsinWomen/SexualityfortheWoman/sexuality-for-women-with-cancer-vulvectomy. Accessed Aug. 1, 2012.
- Frequently asked questions. Gynecologic problems FAQ088. Disorders of the vulva. American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. http://www.acog.org/For_Patients. Accessed Aug. 1, 2012.
- Frequently asked questions. Gynecologic problems FAQ073. Human papillomavirus infection. American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. http://www.acog.org/For_Patients. Accessed Aug. 1, 2012.
- Edge SB, et al. AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 7th ed. New York, N.Y.: Springer; 2010:379.
- Gallenberg MM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 8, 2012.