Hearing the words “you have ovarian cancer” can be frightening and overwhelming. But this is a journey you will not have to take alone. It is always helpful to have a friend or loved one join you for your doctors’ appointments to help ask questions and share information. Having another person with you at the doctor’s office may not only be comforting, but can also be helpful in recording important facts and clarifying issues. You may be feeling too overwhelmed to keep track of everything yourself. This is completely normal; it’s a lot of information at once. Bring along a notebook to take notes while discussing your diagnosis and treatment with your doctor. Here are some questions to ask your health care team to help you better understand your disease and treatment options:

Questions regarding ovarian cancer

  • What type of ovarian cancer do I have? (What is my tumor type?)
  • Has my cancer spread beyond my ovaries?
  • What stage is my cancer? What grade is my cancer?
  • How many cases has the doctor/hospital seen of my type of ovarian cancer? How many in young women?
  • What should I do to prepare for my surgery and treatment?
  • Would somatic genome testing be beneficial for me? (See side note)
  • Who can I expect on my health care team and how can I contact them?

Questions regarding treatment

  • What is the purpose of my treatment? To control the cancer? Manage symptoms?
  • Will I need chemotherapy? Radiation? Both?
  • How many treatments will I need to undergo?
  • What are the side effects that I might experience from treatment?
  • Will I be able to have children after my treatment?
  • Who can I talk to about my fertility options?
  • What are the pros and cons of harvesting eggs?
  • Are there other options for saving my eggs that do not include harvesting?
  • Are there any clinical trials that I qualify for?
  • How do I know if I am eligible?
  • What are the repercussions of my clinical trial?
  • What does insurance cover in a clinical trial?
  • How will my treatments affect my school or work?
  • How quickly can I expect treatment to begin?
  • What long term effects should I anticipate, if any?
  • Are there alternative treatments I may wish to consider?
  • Should I follow a specific diet while going through treatment?
  • Will I lose my hair? If I choose to wear a wig, are there cancer support organizations in the area who distribute wigs?
  • What other changes might my body undergo during treatment?
  • If fertility is an issue, how long can I delay my treatment to deal with my fertility options?
  • What medications will I need in order to manage the side effects of treatment or what should I be doing to help alleviate those side effects?
  • Can you recommend other specialists, such a nutritionist, who can help me be proactive about treatment?

Questions regarding how to handle difficult news:

  • How do I explain the news to my family and friends?
  • What will be my out of pocket costs?
  • What is the 1-3-5-10 year survival rate for my type of cancer?
  • What websites can I explore to learn more? Which can I trust?
  • How can I connect with other young women in the area who are battling cancer/ovarian cancer?
  • What community resources are available to help me manage my finances while undergoing treatment?

A note about second opinions

The thought of telling your doctor you want a second opinion may make you cringe. But rest assured, most doctors understand that you need to advocate for yourself and consider all of your options. Getting a second option is always a good idea to get a different perspective. It is recommended you seek out a gynecologic oncologist who has seen many patients with ovarian cancer, and specifically, your type of ovarian cancer. Be sure to talk to your health insurance company before seeking a second opinion to understand what your coverage will be.