Pancreatic Cancer: Questions to Ask the Health Care Team

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 05/2020

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

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Talking often with the health care team 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 a digital list and other interactive tools to manage your care. It may also be helpful to ask a family member or friend to come with you to appointments to help take notes.

Questions to ask after getting a diagnosis

  • What type of pancreatic cancer do I have?

  • Is my cancer located only in the pancreas?

  • What is the stage of the disease? What does this mean?

  • Can you explain my pathology report (laboratory test results) to me? Could I have a copy of the results?

  • Can you explain my imaging results to me?

  • What is my prognosis (chance of recovery)?

  • Is there a hereditary component to my cancer? Are my family members at increased risk?

  • Can I donate tumor or blood samples or body tissues to research for pancreatic cancer?

Questions to ask about choosing a treatment and managing side effects

  • What are my treatment options?

  • What clinical trials are available for 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?

  • Who will be part of my health care team, and what does each member do? Do they have experience treating pancreatic cancer?

  • Who will be leading my overall treatment?

  • What is the goal of each treatment?

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

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

  • Could this treatment affect my sex life? If so, how and for how long?

  • Could this treatment affect my ability to become pregnant or have children? If so, should I talk with a fertility specialist?

  • If I’m worried about managing the costs of cancer care, who can help me?

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

  • If I have questions or problems, who should I call?

Questions to ask about having surgery

  • Is surgery a possibility to remove the cancer? If so, what type is recommended?

  • How experienced is my surgeon in performing this type of operation?

  • How often are there complications after this type of surgery?

  • How long will the operation take?

  • What type of anesthesia will I be given for this surgery?

  • What are the side effects of that anesthesia?

  • How long will I be in the hospital?

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

  • Who should I contact about any side effects I experience? And how soon?

  • What are the possible long-term effects of having surgery?

  • If surgery is not a possibility, what are my treatment options?

Questions to ask about having radiation therapy

  • Should I receive radiation therapy? Why or why not?

  • What is the goal of this treatment?

  • How long will it take to give this treatment?

  • What side effects can I expect during treatment?

  • Who should I contact about any side effects I experience? And how soon?

  • What are the possible long-term side effects of having this treatment?

  • What can be done to relieve side effects?

Questions to ask about having chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy

  • What is the goal of this treatment? Will this treatment help control the cancer?

  • How long will it take to give this treatment?

  • Will I receive this treatment at a hospital or clinic? Or will I take it at home?

  • What side effects can I expect during treatment?

  • Who should I contact about any side effects I experience? And how soon?

  • What are the possible long-term side effects of having this treatment?

  • What can be done to relieve side effects?

Questions to ask about planning follow-up care

  • What is the chance that the cancer will come back? Should I watch for specific signs or symptoms?

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

  • What follow-up tests will I need, and how often will those tests be needed?

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

  • Who will be leading my follow-up care?

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

The next section in this guide is Additional Resources. It offers more resources on this website that may be helpful to you. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.