Thyroid Cancer: Questions to Ask Your Doctor
Thyroid cancer treatment team members, their roles, and questions to ask
Hearing your diagnosis is thyroid cancer is one of the most difficult situations you or a loved one may face. It is common to feel shocked, confused, scared, and you may want to cry or scream. The purpose of this article is to help you understand who may make up your treatment team and questions to ask to help you to make the best decisions about your medical care, or that of a loved one.
Thyroid Cancer Team Specialists
Whether your diagnosis is papillary, follicular, medullary or anaplastic thyroid cancer, your care and treatment involves a team of thyroid cancer specialists.
Some people like to know everything upfront about their diagnosis, treatment, and potential outcome, and others prefer small bits of information over time. Whichever is your preference, that's okay. Let your doctor know what you prefer, and don't be afraid to speak up and ask questions. It is expected that you will ask many questions during your diagnosis and treatment. You need information to make sound decisions about your health and medical care.
Questions to Ask Your Specialist
- How many patients do you routinely treat with my diagnosis?
- Will you, or who will be the specialist responsible for coordinating my care?
- Will my health insurance cover the costs?
Questions About Your Thyroid Cancer
- What type of thyroid cancer do I have?
- Has my cancer spread beyond the thyroid?
- What stage is my cancer and what does that mean?
- Typically, what is the prognosis for this type of thyroid cancer?
- What caused my cancer?
- If my cancer is genetic, should my children or family members undergo genetic testing?
General Questions About Treatment
- What are my treatment options?
- Explain the potential side effects, risks and benefits of the treatment(s).
- Will I receive more than one type of treatment?
- Is treatment painful?
- Am I a candidate for a clinical trial?
- Can I work while undergoing treatment?
- Could treatment cause me to be infertile?
- How do you determine if the treatment is working?
- Can thyroid cancer come back after treatment?
Questions about Thyroid Surgery
- What type of thyroid surgery do you recommend and why?
- How often do you perform this type of thyroid surgery?
- In patients like me, what is the prognosis for success?
- How soon do I need surgery?
- Can my surgery be performed using minimally invasive techniques?
- Is robotic thyroid surgery an option for me? Why or why not?
- Do I need to be hospitalized or can the surgery be performed on an outpatient basis?
- What will the scar look like?
- What, if any, additional treatments necessary after thyroid surgery?
Other Important Questions
- Where do I call if I have a serious problem?
- If I have a serious problem (eg, side effect) after office hours, on a holiday or weekend, where do I call?
- Who else receives my medical information?
- Should I obtain a second opinion?
- Can you refer me to a psychiatrist or mental health professional if I feel depressed and/or anxious?
- Will I need thyroid replacement therapy for the rest of my life?
- What are the potential side effects and risks related to thyroid replacement medication?
Get the Most From Each Appointment
Chances are you are not a thyroid doctor and do not understand every aspect of your diagnosis and treatment. Even if you were, being the patient is different! You are in uncharted territory, and no doubt feel stressed and anxious. It will be difficult to remember everything the specialist says. To help ease your way, take advantage of the following suggestions:
- Bring a friend, family member or caregiver with you to the appointment.
- Make a list of your questions, and bring them to your doctor's visit.
- Take notes, or ask your companion to take notes.
- Keep a notebook or daily journal.
Bridget Brady, MD, FACS is the first fellowship-trained endocrine surgeon in Austin, Texas. She has a passion for and expertise in disease of the thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenal glands. Dr. Brady has performed thousands of thyroidectomies and parathryoidectomies with a focus on minimally invasive techniques to optimize patients’ medical and cosmetic outcomes.