What Questions Do I Ask My Doctor?

The questions and worry that follow a diagnosis of melanoma can be overwhelming. Educating yourself on melanoma as much as possible can help. As you learn about the disease and your diagnosis, write down all the questions you have and bring them to your next doctor appointment.

The following are common, general questions patients have when they are first diagnosed. Make sure you know the answers to these basic questions—or ask your doctor for the answers. For questions specific to each stage of melanoma, please see our Stages of Melanoma section.

Questions to Ask After Being Diagnosed With Melanoma

  • What type or subtype of melanoma do I have?
  • What stage is my melanoma?
  • How did you determine that?
  • What is the depth of the melanoma in millimeters?
  • Is the melanoma ulcerated?
  • Is it likely that the melanoma has spread? Why or why not?
  • What is my prognosis?
  • What is the next step for me?

Once you know the basics of your diagnosis, your next questions may be about treatment. Most melanoma is treated initially with surgery to remove the entire melanoma and the margins around it. This standard surgery is called wide local excision. For early stage melanoma, this may be the only treatment needed or recommended. The following are general questions you might ask about surgery.

Questions To Ask About Surgery

  • Will I need a wide local excision?
  • Should I have a sentinel lymph node biopsy to find out if there is spread to the lymph nodes?
  • Will surgery be able to remove all of the cancer?
  • Will I need additional surgery?
  • How long will the surgery take?
  • Is it inpatient or outpatient surgery?
  • After the surgical removal of the melanoma, will I need a skin graft?
  • Will my surgery leave a noticeable scar?
  • Can you describe what my recovery from surgery will be like?
  • What are the possible long-term effects of having this surgery?
  • Will I need to have additional treatment after surgery?

If you have later stage melanoma, treatment will likely extend beyond surgery. The following are some basic questions about treatment.

Questions to Ask About Melanoma Treatment

  • What are my treatment options?
  • What are the possible risks and benefits of each?
  • What treatment do you recommend and why?
  • What is the goal of the treatment?
  • What will it be like?
  • Where will it be done?
  • Should I get a second opinion?
  • How do I do that?
  • Can you recommend a doctor or cancer center?
  • How quickly do we need to decide on treatment?
  • Do you have written information I can take home about the different treatment options? If not, where can I find additional information?