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Talking to Your Doctor About Pancreatic Cancer

You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors and/or experience with pancreatic cancer. By talking openly and regularly with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care.

General Tips for Gathering Information

Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your doctor:

  • Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask.
  • Write out your questions ahead of time, so you don't forget them.
  • Write down the answers you get, and make sure you understand what you are hearing. Ask for clarification, if necessary.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions or ask where you can find more information about what you are discussing. You have a right to know.

Specific Questions to Ask Your Doctor

About Your Risk of Developing Pancreatic Cancer
  • Do I have any specific risk factors for pancreatic cancer?
  • Are there any risk factors that I can change?
  • Are my children at risk and when do they need to be screened?
About Pancreatic Cancer
  • What exactly is pancreatic cancer?
  • What parts of the body are involved?
  • What makes you think I might have pancreatic cancer?
  • How can we determine whether or not I have this condition?
  • Could you explain the tests I need?
  • How accurate are the test results?
  • If I have pancreatic cancer, what kind of lifespan do you think I may have?
  • Do the tests tell you about my prognosis or predict cancer relapse?
About Treatment Options
  • What kinds of treatments are appropriate for me?
  • Will I need more than one type of treatment?
  • How long will my treatments last?
  • What are the potential side effects or complications?
  • What is the chance that the recommended treatments will cure my pancreatic cancer?
  • How will we know whether the treatments have been effective or not?
  • While I’m receiving treatment for pancreatic cancer, will I be able to participate in my usual activities?
  • Can you help me weigh the benefits of the treatments versus the effect they may have on my quality of life?
About Lifestyle Changes
  • What kinds of lifestyle changes can I make to avoid developing pancreatic cancer?
  • If I’ve already been diagnosed with this condition, what kinds of lifestyle changes should I make? What would make me stronger and more comfortable as I go through treatments?
  • Can you recommend a support group?
About Outlook
  • How extensive is my cancer?
  • Has the cancer progressed to other parts of my body?
  • What kind of prognosis does my kind of pancreatic cancer have?
  • How do my other medical conditions affect my prognosis?
  • Once I’ve completed treatments, what will we do to monitor whether the cancer returns?

Revision Information

  • Cruz MD, Young AP, et al. Diagnosis and management of pancreatic cancer. Am Fam Physician. 2014;89(8):626-632.

  • Pancreatic cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Accessed October 5, 2015.

  • Pancreatic cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated February 23, 2015. Accessed October 5, 2015.

  • Pancreatic cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Updated July 2014. Accessed October 5, 2015.

  • Tips for talking to your doctor. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: Updated May 2014. Accessed October 5, 2015.