Medications & Oncology Appointments


After reading last week’s post on the 3 T’s (time, transportation, and a trusted friend) you’ve arrived at your oncologist’s office with time to spare. You check in and before you know it, the nurse calls you back to the examination room, or if you are in active treatment, the infusion bay. You will likely have blood drawn for some lab tests as well (more about that in a future post). Regardless of where she brings you, you will need to answer a series of routine questions. Today we’ll focus on questions regarding your medications.

No Assumptions

Sometimes (especially after months of appointments) these routine questions can seem a bit tedious. They are important, though to monitor any changes that might come up in the course of your treatment. The routine questions will jog your memory. They’ll make sure that your medical team is up to speed on what’s happening with you. Never assume that everyone you see knows all about your case. Even if they know who you are, it’s important to remember that they’re seeing hundreds of patients a week. Your doctors and nurses are only human.

With cancer, things can change from one appointment to the next, so the people on your medical team also want to avoid making assumptions, as well. That often means asking the same routine questions at each appointment.

Your Oncology Appointment

Prepare for these routine questions in advance.

It’s a good idea to keep an appointment journal. In preparation for your appointment make note of any changes between appointments.

Report ANY changes in medication

Are you taking ANY new medications since your last appointment?

What are they for?

Have a clear understanding of WHY you are taking this drug. It will help your doctor know if it’s effective or if you need to discontinue the drug or change to a different one.

Who prescribed them?

Your oncologist’s records may not include information from other doctors. They may have questions about a certain prescription and need to speak to the prescriber for clarification.

What doses were they prescribed at? What doses are you taking and how often do you take them?

They will want to know both pieces of information, because there are times when patients don’t take their medications as they were prescribed, often for very good reasons. Be honest with your doctor so they can make the needed changes to your medical records and the prescriptions themselves.

Are you taking ANY over the counter medications?

Just because a medication is purchased without a prescription, doesn’t mean it’s benign. It will interact with your other medications. This includes herbal remedies. Having these listed in your chart is important.

Herbal remedies

Are you experiencing ANY new or continuing side effects? If so, what are they and how often do they occur. Have they changed at all?

Often patients think that side effects are something they have to live with. The truth is, there are usually other medication options or things the doctor can do to reduce the side effects. But, they can only address these problems if they know about them.

Have you discontinued ANY medication? If so, have your symptoms and/or side effects changed?

Sometimes, a patient discontinues a medication altogether. It’s usually because the medication wasn’t working as expected, or because the side effects of the medication were too difficult to deal with. You should always get your doctor’s guidance when discontinuing a drug because some medications need to be tapered slowly to prevent withdrawal symptoms.

Next Week Plus Freebie Offer

Next week’s post will go more in-depth about symptoms vs. side effects. Until then, your homework is to update your medication list for the next time you see your doctor. To help you do this, I’m sending everyone on my mailing list a printable PDF medication list. It’s nothing complicated, but it is important. It’s recommended that you carry a copy with you in case you are in an accident or have a medical emergency. So, if you aren’t already on my email list, sign up now!

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I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!


I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012. Since then, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness.

My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on

The Erickson Family, Photo by Everbranch Photography

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2 comments on “Medications & Oncology Appointments


Hey Heather,

I cannot even imagine what y’all go through on a daily basis. I cannot imagine the pain and heartache which all of you feel at times and moments of your life. I can say this, all of you have always been such an inspiration to me for so many years. Your strength I do not know if I have or not. The way you are always offering help to others.

Doesn’t get much better than that dear friend. I love you all with all of my heart.

By the way I do not know if it alerted you or not, but Pete replied to your comment. I think you will like it.

I love you Heather and the same goes for the rest of the “brood.” 🙂 God Bless, SR

Thank you, SR. The prayers and support of friends like you have lifted our load so many times. We are grateful for every day. For some reason, I haven’t gotten any alerts about comments. Then tonight, I decided I’d better get on the stick and check. I’m glad I did. I have some catching up to do! God bless you, as well! <3

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