Questions To Ask Your Radiation Oncologist

Written by Robyn Stoller, founder of; Originally posted on CancerHAWK in 2012

One of the most effective weapons in the war against cancer is radiation therapy as it delivers high-energy beams directly to a specific target.   The American Cancer Society estimates that 2 out of 3 cancer patients will receive some type of radiation treatment as part of or as their entire treatment regimen.


Varian Medical Systems, a major manufacturer of radiation therapy medical equipment, has created a really informative Patient Information section on their website including information on the different types of radiation therapy, what to expect when you visit a radiation oncologist and begin radiosurgery treatments, and much more.


I LOVE Varian‘s “Questions to Ask Your Doctor”.  Let’s face it, depending on the doctor that you are meeting with, he or she may or may not be proactive in giving you all the information you need to really understand what’s going on.  So it’s best to be prepared with your own list of questions.  Bring them, written out, to your appointment.  Take it from someone whose been there- it really does help.

  • What type of cancer do I have and what stage is it in?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • What is the purpose of radiation treatment for my type of cancer?
  • What is the probability that radiation therapy will work for me? It if works, what are the chances that the cancer will come back?
  • What are the chances that the cancer will spread if I do not have radiation therapy?
  • How and when will you know if I am cured of cancer?
  • How will the radiation therapy be given? Will it be external beam or internal (brachytherapy)?
  • How many treatments will I receive per week, and for how long?
  • What side effects should I expect and how do I manage them?
  • Will I also need other treatments, such as chemotherapy, surgery, or hormone therapy? If so, when will I receive them, and in what order?
  • Is there a clinical trial for which I might be eligible? If there is, should I participate in it? What are the benefits and risks of doing so?
  • Can I drive myself to and from the treatment facility? Do you recommend I bring a friend or family member?
  • Will I need a special diet during or after my treatment?
  • Will I be able to continue my normal activities during treatment? If not, how soon after treatment will I be able to resume them? Work? Sexual activity? Aerobic exercise?
  • Will radiation therapy affect my sex life or my ability to have children?
  • Can I smoke or drink alcohol during my course of treatment?
  • Is it safe to take vitamins during treatment?
  • How can I expect to feel during treatment and in the weeks following radiation therapy?
  • What are reasons I should call you at night or on a weekend?
  • After my treatment is completed, how often will I need to return for checkups?
  • What are some of the support groups I can turn to during treatment?