Almost half of all men and a third of all women in the United States will receive a cancer diagnosis at some time in their lives. In my family, my father, his mother, his older sister, my sister, and myself have all faced some variation of this dreaded disease. When you first hear the word cancer, it can be overwhelming. I was really scared. Managing a cancer diagnosis can be a life-altering experience. You may have to process tons of information from various healthcare professionals. What do you need to know to handle the disease? You’ll be meeting with your doctor to discuss your diagnosis. Bring a close relative or friend with you to the meeting for support. Your stress may prevent you from retaining all the information he shares, and if you have someone you trust with you, they can help you process the information. I personally would take a few notes. Let’s review the important key questions to ask your doctor.
What are the specifics of my diagnosis?
What is the medical name of the cancer, its size and location? Where did it start? Has it spread? Is it considered a slow-growing cancer or an aggressive one?
What are the risk factors for this type of cancer?
Several risk factors contribute to the development of various cancers. These risk factors can be categorized as modifiable or non-modifiable. The modifiable risk factors are those that can be changed, reduced, or eliminated. These are lifestyle-related factors, such as body weight, smoking, and alcohol consumption. Others that cannot be eliminated, including age, sex, and race, are non-modifiable risk factors. It is important to ask your doctor about what risk factors may be contributing to your cancer to determine which ones you can start to change. This may not cure your cancer, but it may help slow its progression by relieving precipitating factors.
What new symptoms or signs should I look out for?
Perhaps you are in the early stages of your cancer and don’t have many symptoms. Symptoms are the subjective things that you experience as a result of your disease and then report to your doctor. Signs are objective clues about the disease that your doctor picks up when they examine you. Certain early symptoms and signs of a disease may seem unremarkable, such as a small mole you’ve never really noticed. It is helpful to know what to expect from your diagnosis and to find out which subtle pointers to look out for. This could help in catching further complications of your cancer much earlier.
What are my treatment options?
Several treatment options for cancer exist, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and hormone therapy. At centers such as the Oklahoma Proton Center, newer treatments such as proton therapy are being used. Each treatment type has its benefits, drawbacks, and side effects. Discuss with your doctor what is best suited for you and take notes for further inquiry if needed.
What kind of resources can I access to help with the costs of my treatment?
Cancer treatments can be very pricey, and several patients may pay out of pocket or have co-pay plans that can stretch finances very thin. Apart from expensive medications, costs include laboratory tests, investigations, and clinical procedures that may need to be repeated frequently to monitor your response to treatment. Never be embarrassed to ask about resources available for relieving the financial strain involved in cancer management. Social workers are available to provide you with any information and financial guidance you may need.
Can I continue with my over-the-counter supplements and herbal medications?
It’s extremely important to let your doctor know about any unprescribed supplements and drugs that you may be taking in addition to those that have been prescribed. This is because of the potential interactions that occur between cancer drugs and various alternative treatments. These interactions could lead to dangerous side effects or inadvertently reduce the effectiveness of your cancer medications. So, always make sure to ask your doctor whether it is safe to continue taking your over-the-counter drugs while undergoing cancer therapy.
There’s a lot to learn as you go through this journey. Understanding the effects of your diagnosis on your daily life is an important part of managing the disease itself. Be sure to ask your health care team any questions you have about your cancer, all of which are completely valid. For more information on cancer see:
This is a collaborative post but all opinions are my own.
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