5 Questions to Ask Your Oncologist Before Starting Cancer Treatment


Understanding the details of your cancer diagnosis can be a lot to process, and most people want to start treatment as soon as possible. Though this time may feel like a whirlwind, there are questions you may want to ask your doctor before starting treatment. The answers are different for everyone, but understanding possible side effects and the process of recovery may be helpful before you start treatment.

1) What are the most common side effects of my proposed cancer treatment?

People undergoing chemotherapy and radiation typically have more sensitive immune systems, skin, hair, and nails than the general population. Some of the most common side effects include:

  • dry, irritated skin
  • hair loss
  • brittle nails
  • and nausea

While some side effects are just uncomfortable, others may signal a more serious issue. Talk to your medical team about what to watch out for with your specific treatment plan.

2) Is there a way to keep my hair during and after treatment?

In some cases, there are ways to reduce or prevent hair loss from cancer therapy, but this is something that works best if you act before starting treatment. Ask your oncologist if there’s anything you can do before starting treatment to reduce hair loss, like:

  • cold caps,
  • minoxidil products,
  • and sleeping on satin pillowcases.

3) What are some signs my treatment is working?

While everyone responds to treatment differently, some people think that side effects from cancer therapy (like rashes, itching, and dry skin) signal that the treatment is working. Although a side effect like rash may be a good sign, it's still important to treat. Large, itchy rashes can negatively affect your well-being and, if really severe, even change your treatment schedule. Studies have also shown that treating or even preventing rash side effects will not decrease the effectiveness of your cancer therapy, so there's no reason to be uncomfortable and "just deal" with these side effects.

4) Can I safely treat the side effects of treatment like itching or sensitive skin?

Always consult with your medical team before using any new products or supplements as they may interfere with your treatment. However, there are over-the-counter solutions and prescriptions that are safe to use which can alleviate your itching and restore moisture to your skin, especially fragrance-free and hypoallergenic products.

5) How do I stay cancer-free after treatment?

There’s no one way to make sure you’re going to stay cancer-free after treatment, but eating a healthy, organic, whole foods diet, and protecting yourself from excessive (more than 20 min a day) sun exposure is a good place to start. Consider high SPF sunscreens and apply multiple times a day if you’ll be outside.

Learning about a diagnosis can be overwhelming, but don't be afraid to ask your provider about what to expect. Setting expectations and reducing unknowns can alleviate stress and help you get through this challenging time.



Medically Reviewed by Taylor Froiland, PharmD

If you are a person living with cancer, you may experience changes in your skin, hair or nails. There are many effective ways to prevent and manage these side effects so they don’t disrupt your life or interfere with treatment.

Find more helpful products and tips at oncodermlabs.com.