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Health Information Center

Talking to Your Doctor About Colorectal Cancer

  • Michelle Badash, MS
Publication Type:

Condition InDepth

Talking to Your Doctor About Colorectal Cancer

You have your own health history. Talk with your doctor about your risk factors and background with colorectal cancer. By talking openly and often with your doctor, you can make the best choices for you and your family.

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 your questions ahead of time, so you do not forget them.
  • Write down the answers you get and make sure you grasp what you are hearing. Ask for help, if needed.
  • Do not be afraid to ask your questions or ask where you can find more information. You have a right to know.

Specific Questions to Ask Your Doctor

About Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer

  • Do I have a higher risk because of my family and health past?
  • Are my children or other relatives at higher risk for colorectal cancer?

About Treatment

  • What is the stage of my cancer?
  • What treatments will I need?
  • What are the most common side effects of these?
  • Will I need to be in the hospital? If so, for how long?
  • What are the long-term effects?
  • How often do these happen? Can I do anything to lower my risk for these problems?
  • Will I need a temporary or permanent colostomy?
  • Can I be cured or will the treatments make me live longer?
  • What are the chances of cancer coming back?
  • Are there any alternative or complementary therapies?

About Lifestyle Changes

  • How will my normal activities change as a result of treatment?
  • Can you tell me about any support groups in the area?
  • Will I have problems with sex?

About Outlook

  • What side effects should I expect?
  • How long will they last?
  • Which side effects should I tell my doctor about?
  • What care will I need after treatment? How often will I need tests?


  • Colorectal cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/colorectal-cancer. Updated July 24, 2019. Accessed August 21, 2019.
  • Getting the most out of your doctor appointment. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/tips-for-talking-to-your-doctor. Updated January 19, 2018. Accessed August 21, 2019.
  • Questions to ask my doctor about my cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/cancer-control/en/worksheets/questions-to-ask-about-my-cancer.pdf. Updated April 17, 2013. Accessed August 21, 2019.


  • Mohei Abouzied, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.