What Should I Ask the Doctor During a Checkup?

It is important to learn as much as you can during your doctor visits. This guide will explain the questions you should ask to gather information about medical tests, medications, and diagnoses.


Asking questions is essential to getting the most out of your doctor visits. If no questions are asked, the doctor may assume you or your loved one already know the answer or that you do not need additional information. Do your best to be proactive, ask questions whenever you don't know the meaning of a word or when instructions aren't clear.

Before a Test:

When seniors visit their doctor, it is common for the doctor to request tests, such as x-rays or other procedures to find out what is wrong or to learn more about your medical status. There are tests, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, that are done regularly to check for hidden issues. Before having any medical test, you should ask why it needs to be done, what it might show, what it will cost, how you should prepare for it, and how you will be notified of the results. In summary, ask the following before a medical test:

  • Why is this test being done?

  • What steps does the test involve? How should I get ready?

  • Are there any potential dangers or side effects?

  • How will I find out the results? How long will it take to get the results?

  • What will we know after the test?

After a Diagnosis:

A diagnosis identifies your problem and is made by your doctor based on the results of your tests and/or symptoms. When you or your loved one is given a new diagnosis, be sure to ask what affects it will have and how long it will last. In summary, ask the following about the diagnosis:

  • What caused this condition? Will it be permanent?

  • How is this condition treated or managed?

  • Will there be long-term effects?

  • How can I learn more about this condition?

About Medications:

The majority of seniors take numerous different medicines for numerous different conditions. When a new drug is prescribed, it is important to know the name of the drug, why it has been prescribed, how often it should be taken, and any special instructions that need to be considered. Also be sure that the doctor knows all the other medications your loved one is taking, including herbal or over-the-counter products. In summary, ask the following about medications:

  • How will this medication help?

  • How much will this cost me?

  • How often should it be taken?

  • Are there any special considerations when taking this drug?

  • Does this medication have side-effects?

Check out this video from the National Institute of Health to review what to ask your doctor:

Source: “What Should I Ask My Doctor During a Checkup?” National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-should-i-ask-my-doctor-during-checkup.