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Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Chemotherapy

You can share this list of questions with your healthcare team. Get answers you need before chemo begins.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About ChemotherapyChemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with drugs that can destroy cancer cells. These drugs often are called "anticancer" drugs.

About Chemotherapy

  • Why do I need chemotherapy?
  • What are the benefits of chemotherapy?
  • What are the risks of chemotherapy?
  • Are there any other possible treatment methods for my type of cancer?
  • What is the standard care for my type of cancer?
  • Are there any clinical trials for my type of cancer?

About Your Treatment

  • How many treatments will I be given?
  • What drug or drugs will I be taking?
  • How will the drugs be given?
  • Where will I get my treatment? How long will each treatment last?

About Side Effects

  • What are the possible side effects of the chemotherapy?
  • When are side effects likely to occur?
  • What side effects are more likely to be related to my type of cancer?
  • Are there any side effects that I should report right away?
  • What can I do to relieve the side effects?

About Contacting Medical Staff

  • How do I contact a health professional after hours, and when should I call?

Hints for Talking with Your Doctor

These tips might help you keep track of the information you learn during visits with your doctor:

  • Bring a friend or family member to sit with you while you talk with your doctor. This person can help you understand what your doctor says during your visit and help refresh your memory afterward.
  • Ask your doctor for printed information that is available on your cancer and treatment.
  • You, or the person who goes with you, may want to take notes during your appointment.
  • Ask your doctor to slow down when you need more time to write.
  • You may want to ask if you can use a voice recorder during your visit. Take notes after the visit is finished. That way, you can review your conversation later as many times as you wish.


Adapted from the National Cancer Institute's web site brochure, "Chemotherapy and You: A Guide to Self-Help During Cancer Treatment." (


Read this survivor-submitted essay for one woman's personal experience of what chemo feels like.