Questions you should ask after diagnosis

When you are first told about your diagnosis, it can be such a shock that often you’re only able to remember part of the information you are given, if anything at all.

Your first appointment at the hospital will usually be with a colorectal surgeon and a colorectal clinical nurse specialist, but you may then also be referred to an oncologist or another specialist surgeon, depending on your own individual case.


Below are some of the questions you might want to ask when you meet with your doctor. Most of them will probably be answered during your appointments, but your doctors and specialist nursing team will be happy to explain anything you or your family are unclear about, when you are first diagnosed or at future appointments. Your colorectal clinical nurse specialist is usually your key worker, the first point of contact if you have any concerns.

Questions regarding diagnosis
  • What kind of cancer do I have? Where in the bowel is it?
  • Has it spread to other parts of my body? If so, where?
  • What is the stage and grade of my cancer, and what does this mean for me?
  • What is your opinion about the best course of action for me?
  • What is your experience of treating my kind of cancer?
  • Do I have a designated colorectal specialist nurse and how can I contact him / her?
Questions regarding tests
  • Are there any further tests that I need to have?
  • What will they tell us? When will I have them?
  • How and when will I be told about the results of the tests?
Questions regarding treatment options
  • Do I have a choice of treatments? If so, what are they?
  • Will I need surgery? Chemotherapy? Radiotherapy? Something else?
  • When will the treatment start and how long will it last?
  • What are the side-effects likely to be?
  • What are my choices of where I can have my treatment?
  • How much time do I have to think about this? Do you need my decision today?
  • Are there any clinical trials which I might be eligible for which would benefit me?
Questions regarding surgery
  • Is surgery absolutely necessary?
  • Will I be having laparoscopic (keyhole) or open surgery?
  • Will I be having my surgery here or at another hospital?
  • Do I have a choice of hospital?
  • Does the hospital have an enhanced recovery programme?
  • Is there anything I can do before or after surgery to assist my recovery?
  • How long will I be in hospital for?
Questions regarding the effects of surgery
  • What effects should I expect after the surgery? When are these likely to happen?
  • Will I need to make any changes to my diet and lifestyle after surgery?
  • Will my bowels go back to normal after the surgery? If not, what will happen?
  • Will there be any long-term consequences which will affect my ability to work or my lifestyle?
  • Will I still be able to have active sex life after the treatment?
  • Who will support me after the operation and once I have gone home again?
Where can I find further support?
  • Do you have any written information about the type of cancer I have and the treatment options being proposed?
  • Where can I obtain information on getting financial support and advice?
  • Is there a support group or drop-in centre where I can get more support locally?