Skin Cancer (Non-Melanoma): Questions to Ask the Health Care Team

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 01/2018

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. Use the menu to see other pages.

Talking often with your 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.

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 any other risks to performing the biopsy?

  • 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 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?

  • Are there other ways to treat the cancer, in addition to the treatment you are suggesting?

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

  • Could this treatment cause changes to my appearance?

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

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

  • Who will be leading my overall treatment?

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

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

  • Whom should I call with questions or problems?

Questions to ask about having surgery

  • What type of surgery will I have?

  • How long will it take to remove the lesion? 

  • How will the surgical area resulting from the removal of the lesion be closed, repaired, or reconstructed?

  • Can you describe what my recovery from surgery will be like? Are there limitations to activities? If so, for how long?

  • Will there be ongoing pain after the cancer is removed? 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 radiation therapy and targeted therapy

  • What type of treatment is recommended?

  • What is the goal of this treatment?

  • How long will it take to give this treatment?

  • What side effects can I expect during treatment?

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

  • What can be done to relieve the 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?

  • How often should I have checkups 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 leading 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. It offers some more resources on this website beyond this guide that may be helpful to you. You may use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.