Things every cancer patient must do

Things every cancer patient must do

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” – Proverbs 2:6

Things every cancer patient must do

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is a life-changing event. You may be experiencing many different emotions right now, including feeling overwhelmed with all the decisions you need to make. We’re here to help you through the process.
Tremendous advances have recently been made in the treatment of cancer. Breakthroughs unimaginable a generation ago are now saving lives as a matter of course. And the one consistent enabling truth in the fight against cancer throughout the years has always been this: Knowledge is power.

1. Do your research – take control of your care

Start to learn everything you can about your diagnosis and find the best medical care to treat your cancer.

Getting advice from top cancer doctors about what to do when diagnosed, especially with advanced-stage cancer, is a critical step in developing the right treatment plan. Fully one out of five patients who receive a cancer diagnosis learn their disease is already in an advanced stage. Advice from physicians experienced in treating the specific type of cancer is especially important for these individuals.

2. Be open to travel and get second opinions to ensure you’re getting the best treatment available

A patient needs to be aware of all treatment options and to feel confident and informed about his or her treatment decision. Initial diagnoses are not always right. A second opinion is a chance to gain more knowledge and insight into the accuracy of the initial diagnosis and to better understand additional needs like nutritional planning, the management of side effects, and the power of family support during cancer treatment.

It’s important to find a physician who will:
• Listen to your concerns.
• Use plain language to explain what you have and what the available treatment options are.
• Understand you and your needs. A combination of credentials and chemistry will likely ensure a good working partnership.

3. Create a strategic treatment plan

If possible, form a team of physicians and specialists who will work on treating your whole body, mind, and spirit. It may be helpful to involve family and friends in the process.

Consider multiple treatment possibilities. Discuss with your doctor and in-depth recommended course of treatment. Ask questions about the full range of options available to you.

4. Know what questions to ask

Gaining knowledge starts with asking the right questions

Asking the right questions can help you understand important information about your cancer diagnosis. Here are 10 questions to ask your oncologist:

i. What types of diagnostic testing do you perform? An accurate diagnosis is critical because it is the basis upon which your treatment plan will be determined. For example, PET/CT scans help determine the precise location of cancer in the body to accurately plan treatment. Tumor molecular profiling identifies a tumor’s unique blueprint to choose targeted chemotherapy drugs. It’s important to have access to advanced diagnostic tests, as well as physicians who are experienced in performing them.

ii. What does my diagnostic testing tell me? The information you should receive from diagnostic tests includes: where the cancer originated, the size of the tumor, the stage of cancer and whether or not it has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

iii. What treatment options are available? What do you recommend and why? Many types of cancer have a variety of treatment options available. Your doctor should be able to explain the potential benefits of each to help you understand your options, even if he or she doesn’t perform a specific treatment.

iv. What happens if a treatment approach doesn’t work for me? At any point, you should feel comfortable asking your doctor about the status of your treatment.

When choosing a care team, you may want to consider doctors willing to try new therapies, depending on your response. Look for professionals who will tailor treatments to your specific diagnosis, and who are willing to pursue other options if your treatment isn’t progressing as expected.

v. What are the side effects of treatment, and how often do your patients experience them? No two people will have the exact same response to cancer treatment, and side effects may vary depending on what type of treatment you choose. Ask your doctor what side effects you might experience, so that you can plan ahead and choose with all of the information you need.

vi. How will you help me manage side effects? Integrative therapies can help prevent or manage side effects, so you stay strong and avoid treatment interruptions. Some therapies that can support your wellness during cancer treatment include: nutrition therapy, naturopathic medicine, mind-body medicine, acupuncture, oncology rehabilitation, spiritual support and pain management. Ask your doctor if any of these are available at your hospital, and how they can be incorporated into your treatment plan.

vii. How many patients have you treated with my type and stage of cancer, and how successful have you been? Ask how much experience your doctor has treating your type and stage of cancer and whether he/she is a board-certified specialist. You may also want to ask how successful they have been in treating your cancer type.

viii. Who will be involved in my care, how often will they meet and who is my main point of contact? An integrated care team including a surgical, medical, and/or radiation oncologist; dietitian; naturopathic oncology provider; clinical nurse and medical advocate (often a nurse care manager) can ensure you get support for your entire well-being during treatment. If you don’t already have a team like this in place, talk to your doctor.

ix. Where will all my treatments, appointments, tests, etc., take place? When looking for a treatment facility, consider the coordination and convenience of your treatment. Having appointments and procedures in one location can make treatment less stressful for you, and it may allow you to start treatment sooner.

x. How will you help me balance my cancer care with the demands of my normal life? Your cancer treatment should adapt to your individual needs, and family and professional obligations. Talk to your doctor about your personal needs, so that all aspects of your life are considered when choosing a treatment plan.

5. Build your support team

Gradually build a support system, including your family and friends who will work and pray with you.
The journey of treatment can sometimes feel lonely. Form alliances with other cancer survivors who may be able to lend a valuable perspective on your cancer journey.
You don’t have to be alone! Cancer is a community disease—allow your caring community to support you through a cancer journey.

6. Make a decision to live!

Just because you have cancer does not mean your life is over. At times one could possibly feel immobilized. Make a proactive choice to enjoy life as much as physically possible. Cultivate an active prayer life, read, exercise, see a movie, go out with friends, visit family— anything to help maintain your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

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