Questions to Ask Your Doctor

When you arrive for your appointment, let your doctor or his/her assistant know that you have brought questions. If you have a printed copy of your questions, you might want to share a copy with your doctor at the beginning of your appointment, so that time can be set aside to discuss them.

Below is a list of questions that you might find useful. You probably will not have time to ask all of your questions in one visit. You can think of these questions as a group from which you can choose. They can also help you think of your own questions.

It is a good idea to decide which questions are most important to you. For example, you could pick the three or four questions that are most important to you now and think about saving the rest for another visit. When you ask your questions, be sure to let your doctor know what is most important to you, if you can wait for some of the answers, and how long you will feel comfortable waiting.

Sometimes we have phrased the questions below in different ways to help you think about other ways to ask for the same information. You may want to phrase these questions in your own words, in a way that is comfortable for you. If you think your doctor has answered your question with a different kind of information than you expected, you can ask the same question in a different way, explaining what sort of information you want to get.

When your doctor answers your question, try putting the answer in your own words, and ask if what you said is correct. This will help make sure you understood what your doctor really meant.

Keeping a medical diary or file about your condition is a good way to collect information that you find useful. Keep track of the questions you ask, who gave you answers, and what the answers were.

Diagnosis Questions

  1. Could you please give me a handout about my condition or write down the name of my condition?
  2. Are there other names that might be used for this condition? If so, what are these, and can someone write them down for me?
  3. What are the signs and symptoms of this condition? How do I know if I or my child have this?
  4. What medical tests or procedures are used to diagnose this condition or verify a diagnosis? Can you write down these terms?
  5. How much discomfort should I/we expect?
  6. How should I/we prepare for these tests or procedures?
  7. Will these tests or procedures need to be repeated? How often?

Treatment Questions

  1. What kinds of doctors am I going to need to see? What kind of doctor(s) or specialists should I be seeing? Is there a normal order in which patients with this condition see different specialists?
  2. What are the standard treatments? What procedures are used to treat this condition?
  3. Are there alternatives to these treatments? What alternatives are available?
  4. What are my/our options? What are the risks and benefits of each of these options?
  5. What is most likely to happen if I choose to decline the recommended treatment? What is most likely to happen if I choose to accept the recommended treatment?
  6. How much discomfort should I/we expect?
  7. What will I be able to do after treatment that I can't do now? What will I not be able to do after treatment that I can do now?
  8. How do you define success for this treatment? How will we know if the treatment is working the way we want?
  9. What are the chances that this treatment will or won't be successful?
  10. How should I/we prepare for these procedures or treatments?
  11. How many of these procedures are performed at this hospital each year? How often do you (the doctor) do this procedure?
  12. When should I consider a clinical trial?

What To Expect (Prognosis) Questions

  1. What should I expect after this procedure?
  2. What should I expect in the near future?
  3. What should I expect in the next few years?
  4. What should I expect for the rest of my life?

Lifestyle Questions

  1. What are the warning signs that something is wrong? When should we call a doctor? When should we come see a doctor (make an appointment)? How do we know if something is seriously wrong and we should go to the emergency room?
  2. Are there foods, over-the-counter medications, or herbs that should be avoided or could be dangerous? Are there foods that are better for people with this condition?
  3. Are there exercises or movements that should be avoided or could be dangerous? Are there exercises that are helpful for people with this condition?
  4. What will we need to know about eating and food?
  5. Is there a chance we could need special care, nursing, or medical support at home?
  6. Will we need special equipment at home? If so, can you recommend models and vendors or suppliers?

Questions about Communicating

  1. Where can I find emotional support for me and my family? Do you know of any support groups in this area? Do you know of any online support groups or patient organizations that we could join?
  2. What should we tell our family and friends about this?
  3. Is this a condition where, in case of an emergency or crisis, we should alert rescue officials in advance that someone in our home might need special assistance?
  4. How do I tell other people? Do you have suggestions or ideas for how I could tell my (family, friends, boss, coworkers)?
  5. What can I say or do when strangers notice or make comments?
  6. If you were in my situation, what information would you most want to have?
  7. As a doctor, what information about this condition do you wish your patients knew?