Skin Cancer (Non-Melanoma): Questions to Ask the Doctor

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 06/2015

ON THIS PAGE: You will find some questions to ask your doctor or other members of your health care team to help you better understand your diagnosis, treatment plan, and overall care. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

Talking often with the doctor is important to make informed decisions about your health care. These suggested questions are a starting point to help you learn more about your cancer care and treatment. You are also encouraged to ask additional questions that are important to you. You may want to print this list and bring it to your next appointment, or download Cancer.Net’s free mobile app for an e-list and other interactive tools to manage your care.

Questions to ask before a biopsy

  • What should I expect during and after a skin biopsy?

  • Will the biopsy remove all of the lesion?

  • Will there be a scar?

  • Are there other lesions that should be biopsied?

  • To which laboratory is the biopsy being sent? Is there a pathologist who specializes in skin cancer working there?

Questions to ask after getting a diagnosis

  • What type of skin cancer do I have?

  • Can you explain my pathology report (laboratory test results) to me?

  • Are more tests needed to find out if the cancer has spread?

Questions to ask about choosing a treatment and managing side effects

  • What are my treatment options?

  • What clinical trials are open to me? Where are they located, and how do I find out more about them?

  • What treatment plan do you recommend? Why?

  • What is the goal of each treatment? Is it to eliminate the cancer, help me feel better, or both?

  • What are the alternatives to the treatment you are suggesting?

  • What are the possible side effects of this treatment, both in the short term and the long term?

  • Who will be part of my health care team, and what does each member do?

  • Who will be coordinating my overall treatment?

  • How will this treatment affect my daily life? Will I be able to work, exercise, and perform my usual activities?

  • If I’m worried about managing the costs related to my cancer care, who can help me with these concerns?

  • What support services are available to me and my family?

  • Whom should I call for questions or problems?

  • Is there anything else I should be asking?

Questions to ask about having surgery

  • What type of surgery will I have?

  • How long will it take to remove the lesion?

  • Can you describe what my recovery from surgery will be like?

  • Will there be ongoing pain after the removal of the cancer? If so, what types of pain management programs, such as medications or relaxation techniques, are available?

  • What will the scar look like after surgery? How long will it take to heal?

  • Are there any other possible long-term effects of having this surgery?

Questions to ask about planning follow-up care

  • What is the risk of the cancer returning? Are there signs and symptoms I should watch for?

  • What long-term side effects or late effects are possible based on the cancer treatment I received?

  • How often should I have check-ups to watch for other skin cancers?

  • What other follow-up tests will I need, and how often will I need them?

  • How do I get a treatment summary and survivorship care plan to keep in my personal records?

  • Who will be coordinating my follow-up care?

  • What steps should I take to prevent future skin cancers?

  • What support services are available to me? To my family?

The next section in this guide is Additional Resources, and it offers some more resources on this website beyond this guide that may be helpful to you. Or, use the menu on the side of your screen to choose another section to continue reading this guide.