Pancreatic Cancer Questions to Ask the Healthcare Team

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The amount of information received from healthcare professionals after diagnosis may be overwhelming. Preparing in advance of meetings can help you gather useful information and better understand your diagnosis as well as treatment options.

It can be very helpful to bring another person along to medical appointments. A trusted friend or family member can be supportive, provide an extra set of ears and ensure all questions are answered. Recording the meeting is a good way to avoid missing important information. Always ask the doctor for permission before recording.

You should feel comfortable and supported by your healthcare team. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network strongly recommends seeking a healthcare team that suits all of your physical, mental and emotional needs.

Questions About a Doctor’s Experience

  • How many people with pancreatic cancer do you care for each year?
  • What have been the results for these patients? Did they have a similar diagnosis?
  • Do you work with a team of expert physicians to manage care? Who are they and what are their specialties?

Questions About Your Diagnosis

  • What is my diagnosis? What type of pancreatic cancer do I have?
  • What is the stage of my cancer? What does this mean?
  • What are the symptoms that I may experience from the cancer?

Questions About Treatment

  • What treatment(s) do you recommend? Why?
  • Are there any clinical trials available to me at this hospital? At other local hospitals?
  • Do you provide molecular profiling or refer patients to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Know Your Tumor® precision medicine service to help determine treatment options?
  • What are the potential benefits and risks of each of my treatment options?
  • Explain the medications being prescribed for me. What does each one do?
  • What type of blood tests, scans or other tests will I need during my treatment? How often?

Questions About Surgery

  • Can my tumor be removed through surgery? Why or why not?
  • How many pancreatic surgeries have you performed? How many in the past year?
  • How many pancreatic surgeries are performed at your hospital every year?
  • What are the possible complications of pancreatic surgery?
  • How long should I expect to be in the hospital recovering after pancreatic surgery?
  • Would you be able to recommend another experienced surgeon for a second opinion? 

Questions About Side Effects

  • What are the potential side effects of my treatment options? How likely are they to occur?
  • How can I expect to feel during the treatment?
  • What medication(s) will be prescribed to help manage my side effects? Do these medications have additional side effects?
  • How can I contact you in case of an emergency or if I have further concerns?

Questions About Diet

  • Do I need to change or modify my diet?
  • Do you have a dietitian that you recommend?
  • Will I need to take pancreatic enzymes or vitamins? If so, how often?

Questions About Social Concerns

  • Will my ability to work, travel or drive be affected?
  • Will I need to spend time in the hospital?
  • Will I have physical limitations?
  • Are there any lifestyle changes I should make?
  • What support programs are available for me and my family?
  • Who can I speak with about my financial and/or insurance concerns?
  • Who can help me navigate the medical system? Is there an oncology social worker or patient navigator available at this hospital?

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Does the doctor seem interested in my questions? Is the communication easy?
  • Did I get enough time with the doctor to answer all of my questions?
  • Do I feel comfortable with the doctor and his/her recommendations?
  • Will I be able to reach him/her if I have any questions or concerns while being treated?
  • Is the doctor open to me seeking a second opinion?

Even if you feel comfortable with the answers a doctor provides, it might be beneficial to seek a second opinion. You have a right to seek a second opinion. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network strongly recommends seeking a second opinion, as needed, at any point in your diagnosis. Second opinions can be extremely valuable when making treatment decisions. They can help provide additional information about treatment options as well as more confidence in the treatment plan. Many doctors welcome hearing the opinions of their colleagues. To receive the names of doctors who specialize in treating pancreatic cancer, contact PanCAN Patient Services.

We’re Here to Help

For free, in-depth and personalized resources and information on pancreatic cancer, contact PanCAN Patient Services.

Information reviewed by PanCAN’s Scientific and Medical Advisory Board, who are experts in the field from such institutions as University of Pennsylvania, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Virginia Mason Medical Center and more.

Information provided by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Inc. (“PanCAN”) is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or other health care services. PanCAN may provide information to you about physicians, products, services, clinical trials or treatments related to pancreatic cancer, but PanCAN does not recommend nor endorse any particular health care resource. In addition, please note any personal information you provide to PanCAN’s staff during telephone and/or email communications may be stored and used to help PanCAN achieve its mission of assisting patients with, and finding cures and treatments for, pancreatic cancer. Stored constituent information may be used to inform PanCAN programs and activities. Information also may be provided in aggregate or limited formats to third parties to guide future pancreatic cancer research and education efforts. PanCAN will not provide personal directly identifying information (such as your name or contact information) to such third parties without your prior written consent unless required or permitted by law to do so. For more information on how we may use your information, you can find our privacy policy on our website at