Summary: Hearing a new medical diagnosis can be and feel completely life stopping. You may feel lost, alone, and unsure of where to go. It can feel intimidating to know what to say or ask of your doctor’s after they have given you the news. Here you can learn about the basic questions you should be asking to get all of the details you need to know about living with your new condition and life.
Upon receiving your new diagnosis, there are certain general questions that may help you to gain a better understanding of your condition and develop a better relationship with your physicians. In these situations, the easiest method for having all aspects of your questions answered are to remember the five W’s. You may have first learned about the five w’s way back in elementary school: who, what, where, when, why and how. While there will be additional questions along the way, this is always a great place to start for those who are unsure.
Use this handy chart to help guide which questions may be important to your situation.
|New Diagnosis||New Treatment|
|Who||Who usually ends up with this disease or condition?||Who usually get this treatment?|
|What||What caused this disease or condition? What is the short and long-term prognosis? What are the signs and symptoms?||What are my treatment options? What are the risks of these options? What are the benefits of my options?|
|Where||Where should I go to get any further testing needed? Where can I get additional information? Where can I get a second opinion?||Where will I be treated? At home? In an outpatient setting? In a hospital?|
|When||When can I expect to see any signs or symptoms of this disease or condition? When will I have my next laboratory tests?||When can I expect my treatment to start or stop?|
|Why||Why did I get this disease or condition? What were my risk factors? Are or were any of these risk factors preventable or addressable?||Why do I need this treatment? Why will this treatment help? Why might someone with this condition or disease consider waiting on this treatment?|
|How||How will the disease impact me long term? How is this disease or condition treated?||How well will this treatment work? How long as this treatment been available?|
At the time of your diagnosis, you will receive loads of information at once, and some of that information may feel too deep to understand. You may not retain anything, or certain points, that your doctor is presenting to you and that is totally normal. Medical information is complex and can take more than one visit to fully comprehend. Do not feel bad if you need to ask your medical care team to repeat themselves or whatever they have just told you. You can also take a recording device or use the feature on your cell phone to record so that you can listen again at another time. Your doctor may also have other resources for you like brochures and printable materials that you can take home with you so you know where to find factual, valid information.
In whichever way you decide to ask about or find the information you need, do not leave your appointment without knowing these two important things:
- What do I need to do next? And
- When will I talk to you again about this diagnosis or condition?
Being the patient, it is important to hear and understand your doctor’s recommendations for the next steps of your medical care and treatment plan. There could be additional testing, more lab tests, or the need to seek out another specialist.
Being clear and concise while speaking up for yourself and your medical care also helps to develop the relationship between you and your medical team. Doctors love knowing that they can trust in their patients to do the things lined out for their treatment, and that they will speak up when they are confused or have questions.
For those diagnosed with a new condition or issue, consider scheduling your next appointment as your leave this appointment where you learned your diagnosis. This helps to keep you accountable and checked-in and ensures you will not forget to make further appointments. Never be afraid to speak up and ask questions of your doctors or medical care team! This is what they are so highly educated for- to help us help ourselves to live our best lives!