When considering any treatment options, whether they're considered curative or palliative, there are some essential questions you will want to ask your doctor.
Six Questions for your Doctor
- What treatments are available for my illness?
Your doctor should tell you what treatments are standard for your illness. Your doctor will not always share the option of palliative care or hospice without being asked directly. If you are interested in finding out how palliative care or hospice can help you, be sure to ask.
- What are the chances that a particular treatment will be effective?
Some treatments are standard and very effective. If you have tried treatments before that have lost their effectiveness or haven’t worked at all, ask your doctor about less standard and experimental treatments. Knowing what the chances are that a treatment will provide relief will help you determine if the benefits of the treatment are worth any risks.
- Will this treatment prolong my life?
Some treatments will target symptoms of an illness without extending life. You will want to know whether the treatment you're considering will extend your life and based on your goals of care, you can decide if that indeed what you want.
- What are the risks of a particular treatment?
This may the most important question to ask. Just about every treatment has some sort of undesired consequence or side effect. Depending on your goals of care, a particular risk may not be worth the potential benefit. For example, if the treatment will likely make you feel sick, weak, and tired but not cure your illness, you might decide to forgo it to focus on quality of life.
- How will this treatment affect my other medical conditions and treatments?
Some treatments have unintended effects on other medical conditions or treatments. For example, a patient with lung disease, heart disease, and kidney disease may take steroids to control lung disease, which can lead to increased water retention making their heart disease worse. Then, taking diuretics to control water retention and swelling can lead to worsening kidney failure. Finding out how potential side effects will affect any other illnesses will help you decide if the treatment is worth it.
- If this treatment doesn’t work, what is our next step?
You will want to know where your heading if things don’t go as hoped. Having a plan in place will make any new decision easier to make.
Armed with the right information, you are empowered to make your own informed decisions about your treatment.
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