Questions to ask about a child’s cancer diagnosis

Hematologist/oncologist Ashok B. Raj, M.D., outlined five important questions to ask after an initial cancer diagnosis that can help parents communicate with their child’s treatment team.

When a child is diagnosed with cancer, it can be overwhelming for the patient and their entire family. Parents likely will have many questions, especially in the beginning, and providers encourage them to be inquisitive during appointments.

“Our patients’ families should feel empowered to ask us questions,” said Ashok B. Raj, M.D., pediatric hematologist/oncologist with Norton Children’s Cancer Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. “We want to take the time to ensure they feel informed throughout the child’s treatment.”

What to ask after a cancer diagnosis

Sometimes, parents may not know what to ask or where to start, and that’s OK. Dr. Raj outlined five important questions to ask after an initial cancer diagnosis. These can help parents communicate with their child’s treatment team.

  1. What is the prognosis of this type of cancer? How treatable is it?
  2. What should I tell my child and my other children/family members? Can you help me talk to my child and explain things? Should I not share the diagnosis right away?
  3. How long will the treatment take? Will my child need to be in the hospital, or can the treatment be done as an outpatient?
  4. What complications can arise? How should we prepare for the unexpected?
  5. Can you connect me to other patients or families who have undergone something similar?

More helpful tips during visits

Norton Children’s Cancer Institute

Our team of oncologists and specialists is ready to guide patients and their families through a child’s cancer diagnosis and during each step of their treatment.

Call (502) 629-7725

Write down questions before the appointment. Use a notebook or type questions in your phone’s notes app. During stressful situations it can be difficult to remember all details, but having questions you’ve written out ahead of time can help make the most of the visit.

Record the answers to your questions. Bring a notebook or voice recorder, or use the voice memo app on your phone. This will help you remember the information shared by your provider and process it on your own time.

Speak up if you don’t understand something. There can be a lot of new information and medical terminology being presented at once, and some of it may be complicated to follow. If you’re unclear, ask your provider to draw a picture or give an example of how something works.

Additional support for families

After a child receives a cancer diagnosis, patients meet with a patient navigator, who serves as a one-on-one resource to help the family throughout the child’s cancer treatment at Norton Children’s Cancer Institute, affiliated with UofL School of Medicine.

Support groups are also available for caregivers and siblings, offering therapeutic activities and support for common issues that arise during the course of treatment.