It is important to find ways to move forward with your life after the initial shock of a cancer diagnosis. Knowledge is power. Knowing what is happening and what you need to do to meet your needs will make the cancer journey easier.
Your Cancer Type and Stage
Knowledge can help you make important treatment decisions. Find quality information about your type of cancer. Learn about cancer terminology, lab reports and medical reports. Find online cancer information provided by government agencies such as the National Cancer Institute.
Nonprofit cancer organizations that provide quality information:
Some find information on online support groups, blogs or chat rooms. These are good ways to share experiences. However, always evaluate information you get from others. Be certain that the source of medical information is qualified to provide that type of help. Talk with your health care team (e.g., physician, oncologist, nurse practitioner or physician assistant) to find out if information is current, accurate and applies to your situation.
Steps to Moving Forward With Cancer
- Learn as much as you can about your type and stage of cancer.
- Find the best health care providers and facilities for you.
- Learn about all of your treatment options and the possible side effects.
- Identify specific concerns and needs you have.
- Find the help you need.
Find the Best Health Care Providers and Facilities
One of the most important things you must do is to find the health care providers that are best for you. Be certain that the members of your health care team have experience treating your type of cancer. It is important that you have a good relationship with your team. You need to be able to trust them and feel that you can talk openly. You and your team should be able to work together to make health care decisions.
Many nonprofit cancer organizations can help you find the best health care providers for your type and stage of cancer. They can also tell you about local and national resources and how to use them. For example, the National Cancer Institute also provides information about how to find a health care provider or treatment facility.
How to Find the Right Health Care Providers
- Ask members of your health care team for their opinions.
- Talk with loved ones, friends and cancer survivors about their experiences.
- Contact nonprofit cancer organizations to request help.
Your Treatment Options and Possible Side Effects
Find out about treatment options specifically related to your type and stage of cancer. Start by talking with members of your health care team. They can help you identify a treatment plan for your needs.
Seek other medical opinions about treatment options as well. For example, you may find that an oncology surgeon will recommend surgical treatment. Another health care provider might recommend chemotherapy. You will need to find the method that you prefer.
Also, talk with your health care team about complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) treatments. CAM treatments such as acupuncture or massage may be added to your main cancer treatment plan. Learn more about options by contacting the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Loved ones, friends and other survivors may have experiences to share. Most cancer centers have oncology social workers or patient navigators to provide the support and information you need to make good decisions. In the end, you will need to be the one to decide.
Questions to Ask Your Health Care Team
- Can you tell me about successes you have had with different types of treatment?
- What clinical trials are available?
- What are the benefits of each type of treatment?
- What are the risks of each?
- What would you recommend to one of your loved ones?
Your Specific Concerns and Needs
Identifying needs early can be very helpful. Think about how cancer treatment could affect your life. Talk with your health care team about those needs. For example, if you want to have children in the future, find out how certain treatments might affect that possibility. In this case, you may want to ask for a referral to a fertility preservation specialist before you begin treatments.
Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Needs
- Are there concerns about having children in the future?
- What effect will cancer treatment have on my ability to work?
- How will cancer treatment affect my loved ones?
- What would be the best way to address my concerns?
Your health care team will help you get the medical care you need. They can also refer you for support services. Many nonprofit cancer organizations offer services to help you find resources and answers to your questions.
LIVESTRONG Can Help
Livestrong Cancer Navigation Services offers free guidance from experienced cancer nurses. They’ll work with you and your loved ones to answer questions and provide information about your type of cancer. They can explain your medical records and scans. To help you make the best decisions, they can talk with you about treatments. The nurses will listen to your concerns and refer you to qualified health care providers for another medical opinion. Livestrong Cancer Navigation Services offers a variety of support that is provided by professionals in the cancer field.