Questions to Ask Before Starting Chemotherapy

Questions to Ask Before Starting Chemotherapy

Reviewed by Jasper Clinical Board

Last updated 5/24/21

If your doctor has recommended chemotherapy as part of your cancer treatment plan, you’ll likely have questions about what’s ahead. From clarifying terminology to going through the timeline of upcoming events, this is an important part of the process, helping you and your caregivers to work as a team to further your health. To get you started, here are some questions you might ask. Know that it’s perfectly okay (and often encouraged) to bring a pen and paper to take notes, to record the conversation, or to bring a companion into the meeting to help you listen, take notes, and gather more information. In addition, always feel free to ask for clarification on (as well as the spelling of) terms you don’t understand.
  1. How long will I be taking this medication and on what schedule?
  2. What are the side effects of this medication—both mild and serious, and including any potential allergic reactions—and how common are they?
  3. When should I call your office about side effects I’m experiencing?
  4. When should I proceed to the emergency room due to side effects?
  5. What medications should I take to manage side effects from the drug(s)?
  6. Are there side effects that may impact my mental health, and if so, can you recommend a therapist or other mental health practitioner who can help me during this time?
  7. What do you recommend I do to help me cope emotionally at this time?
  8. What should I eat or avoid eating with my treatment or associated medications?
  9. How do I make an appointment with a registered dietician if I would like to speak with one about food and nutrition?
  10. How much should I try to drink each day? What can I drink if I get tired of water? What should I avoid drinking?
  11. Are there precautions I should be taking around my family members, knowing I have this medication in my system (i.e. not sharing a bathroom or flushing twice after using the toilet, etc.)?
  12. Do I need to limit my sexual activity while taking this medication and could sexual activity with this medication in my body endanger my partner in any way?
  13. Will this chemotherapy regimen impact my fertility? If so, do you have recommendations for a reproductive endocrinologist I can speak with about my fertility preservation questions?
  14. How long will it be until I feel better after I finish this regimen of drug therapy? How long will it take for my body to return to normal?
  15. What do I need to keep in mind if I want to start or continue exercising as I receive this treatment?
  16. May I have the package insert or educational materials about these drugs to take home with me to read?
  17. May I have the names of the drugs written out for me, so I can check with my prescription insurance to ensure they are covered before I commit to taking them?
  18. What do clinical trials show are the benefits of one of these choices over the other (if you are given choices)? What are the reasons people choose one treatment option over the other?
  19. Will this regimen require hospitalization to receive, and if so, for how long and how many rounds?
  20. What does my caregiver need to know about this treatment? What will my caregiver need to help me with?
  21. What is the plan if my cancer relapses even after I do everything you suggest?

The content on this website is intended to provide the best possible information for you, but should not be considered—or used as a substitute for—medical advice. If you have questions about your diagnosis or treatment, please contact your health care provider(s). For questions or comments about this content, please email us at