Medical Q&As

Hospital consultant - what questions should I ask?

My dad has all the symptoms of bowel cancer and is due to visit a consultant. I would appreciate your advice on what questions to ask the consultant. I will accompany my dad and I want to get the most out of this visit. Even though there is bleeding is it possible that he may have some other very treatable condition.

I think it is very important that you keep an open mid about the possible causes of your fatherís symptoms and not immediately jump to the conclusion that he has bowel cancer. There are other possible causes for his complaint. Even if your fears are realised bowel cancer is a treatable condition and the prognosis or outcome very much depends on the extent of the growth and whether or not it has spread beyond the bowel. It is likely that your father will need to undergo some tests in order to establish a precise diagnosis therefore it is entirely reasonable to ask for specific information about the nature of these tests. What investigations will need to be performed? How are they done? Will he need to be admitted to hospital or can the investigations be done as an outpatient? The consultant may well give a very satisfactory explanation to you and your father so I think your questions should be prompted by what you are told and then pose supplementary questions for further clarification. If you donít understand what is being said make sure you say that and ask for the matter to be explained in language that you understand. It is likely that the consultant will send a written report to your fatherís doctor. That report may contain additional useful information. However, I would caution you not to be too earnest in looking for information because your father is the patient and he has to come to terms with that information. Your father needs to be given time and space to come to terms with what has been said. If you push too far, too quickly you may be forcing him to face matters that he is not yet ready for. He may have different fears and expectations to you so I think his concerns should be the main focus for discussion with the consultant.