Questions after diagnosis

Being told you need to see a specialist for tests can be a shock. It can often be some time before your appointment so it’s easy to feel worried.

Your healthcare team will always tell you how to prepare for your tests and what is involved. They will also explain any results to you.

But having some extra questions to ask, can make it easier to understand what will happen and why.

You may want to ask questions about:

  • being referred for tests for cancer
  • having tests and getting the results
  • getting more information about your cancer diagnosis
  • any practical issues such as work and finances.

It’s likely you’ll have many different feelings during this time. If you need emotional support, help is available. Your GP, cancer specialist or nurse will be able to help you to find the support you need. You can also call our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00.

About your diagnosis

  • Where did the cancer start?
  • What is a primary cancer?
  • What is a secondary cancer?
  • What is the stage of the cancer? (This tells you how advanced it is).
  • What is the grade of the cancer? (This gives an idea of how quickly it is growing).
  • What are the average survival rates for this type of cancer, and what might this mean in my case?


Questions about having tests

Your GP should refer you to a doctor who specialises in diagnosing and treating the type of cancer you have. This may be a surgeon, a cancer specialist (oncologist) or another type of specialist, such as a doctor specialising in blood conditions (haematologist). You can ask them about their area of expertise.

Although tests can be uncomfortable, the healthcare staff looking after you should make you feel as comfortable as possible. You should be given information about the tests, including written information. This should be easy to understand and explain everything you want to know.

You will usually be given an appointment to come back and see your specialist, so that they can explain the results of your tests. They should use clear language and give you enough time to ask questions.

You can also ask for a key worker or clinical nurse specialist to be there to help, although there is not always a specialist nurse for every situation. You can also bring someone with you when your diagnosis and treatment options are being discussed.

Here are some possible questions you could ask about being referred for tests:

  • Why are you referring me to a specialist?
  • Is the doctor I will be seeing a cancer specialist?
  • When will I be seen? Are you referring me as urgent or non-urgent?
  • When will I have the tests?
  • What are the tests for and what will they involve?
  • Will the person doing the test look after me while it is being done? Will they tell me what to expect?
  • Who will give me the results and when?


Questions after diagnosis

Asking questions during and after your diagnosis can make it easier to understand what is happening and why.

Being told you need to see a specialist for tests can be a shock. It can often be some time before your appointment, so you might feel worried.

Your healthcare team will tell you how to prepare for your tests and what is involved. They will also explain any results to you.

But you might want to ask some extra questions. Someone should be available after your first appointment to discuss your diagnosis and how it may affect you. This is usually a clinical nurse specialist.

If you think of questions later, you may also find it helpful to speak to someone at your nearest Macmillan cancer information and support centre. You can also call our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm).

You may want to ask questions about:

  • being referred for tests for cancer
  • having tests and getting the results
  • getting more information about your cancer diagnosis
  • any practical issues, such as work and finances.

You are likely to have many different feelings during this time. If you need emotional support, help is available. Your GP, cancer specialist or clinical nurse specialist will be able to help you find the support you need. You can also call our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00.

Here are some suggestions about the types of questions you could ask after your diagnosis.


Getting more information

  • Who can I contact if I think of questions later? Can I see someone in person?
  • Will someone tell my GP about the diagnosis? How quickly will this happen?
  • Can I ask for a second opinion about my diagnosis or the plan for my treatment?
  • Who can I talk to about how I am feeling?
  • Who can I ask about practical issues?

We have more suggested questions about getting practical and financial support (see ‘Questions about help and support’ below).

Back to Questions to ask

Asking questions

Your healthcare team will be happy to answer any questions you may have.