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Questions to ask your doctor after a diagnosis

After a diagnosis, it’s important to take time to process everything and then to learn as much as possible about your illness or condition to help understand the best course of action going forward.

Making sense of anything during initial doctor appointments—or even hearing what they say—can be difficult when you’re stressed or anxious. Most people need to research their illness or condition before they’re ready to make an informed decision. Depending on your situation, books, websites, and support groups may offer insights and information about evaluating your options.

As you evaluate treatment options, follow up with the doctor’s billing or front office staff or your insurance company if you need help understanding the costs and health insurance coverage.

Questions to ask your doctor after a diagnosis

Remembering all the details a doctor might share can be challenging. Write down your questions and take a notepad and pen to appointments—or ask if you can record the conversation on your phone. Keep asking for details until you understand your condition and treatment options. If you become overwhelmed by information, consider bringing a trusted friend or family member.1

Questions to ask about a diagnosis

  • What is this disease, disorder, condition, or illness? 
  • What caused it? 
  • Could my symptoms be caused by anything else? Is there a possibility this isn’t the correct diagnosis? 
  • Are there more symptoms I should expect? 
  • What kinds of tests need to be done? What will we find out? 
  • Are the tests risky and how accurate are they? 
  • What is my prognosis for the future—short- and long-term?
  • Am I at risk of being contagious or infectious? Learn about infectious diseases from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Questions to ask about treatment options

  • Do I have more than one option for treatment? What’s the most common treatment? 
  • How effective is it? 
  • What would happen with no treatment? 
  • What are the side effects? 
  • Will treatment negatively affect my life, job, or ability to take care of my family?

Questions to ask about surgeries

  • Is surgery the only choice in my case? 
  • How is this surgery performed and what will you do? 
  • Why is surgery necessary or preferred? 
  • What are the risks of this surgery? 
  • What kind of anesthesia will be used, and what should I know about it? 
  • What will the recovery process be like and how long will it take? 
  • What are your qualifications and how much experience do you have?

Medical and health care resources to support you

Many options for support may be available, online and in person. A variety of helpful resources are available when you’re going through a health event, including: 
  • Rehabilitation, physical therapy, and palliative care for physical needs. 
  • Counseling or other therapy for emotional needs such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These feelings are natural following serious health events—lasting longer than the treatment in some cases. In fact, PTSD is common.2 

In many cases, caregivers and close family members can also experience ongoing anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be beneficial in treating anxiety about your illness, depression, or PTSD after a health event (or lingering effects of trauma even if it’s not as severe as PTSD).3

Generally, going to support groups, online or in person, for people with similar experiences can help you begin to process emotions. Talking to a counselor or therapist can also help.

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More to explore

1.“Questions to ask your doctor,”, Cleveland Clinic, June 04, 2023, 2. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, April 24, 2023, 3. "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder," National Institute of Mental Health, May 2022,

This information is general in nature and provided for educational purposes only.