Newly Diagnosed with Cancer? Here's What You Need to Know

Newly Diagnosed With Cancer? Here’s What You Need to Know

A cancer diagnosis can turn your life upside down – suddenly you are faced with issues of mortality and fears about the unknown. First, it’s important to express how you feel and not keep it bottled up inside. Second, being well-informed about your diagnosis and arming yourself with knowledge can be empowering and help you deal with the considerable challenges ahead.

10 Helpful Cancer-Related Tips

  1. Do research when choosing a cancer specialist. Consider cancer centers offering specific expertise and the latest treatments, or hospitals with specialized programs. Use a combination of online resources that rate physicians and facilities, recommendations from trusted primary care providers, and suggestions from personal acquaintances when choosing a provider. Don’t be afraid to get a second or even third opinion. It’s also important to find a doctor who listens, explains things clearly, and understands your needs during this difficult time.

  1. Being well informed from a clinical standpoint will help you feel empowered. Only use reputable Internet sources to do this research – there is a lot of misinformation posted online. Understanding the basics will help you be part of the important decision-making process rather than a spectator simply taking orders from your doctor.

  1. Prepare a list of questions for your cancer team ahead of time. Doctors and nurses are very busy, so being prepared will help you maximize your limited appointment time. Consider taking a friend or loved one with because it’s likely you won’t remember the answers to your questions and they can take notes for you.

  1. Ask the specifics about your cancer including the exact type, staging, prognosis, research-backed treatment options, the goal and side effects of treatment, and your provider’s experience treating this type of cancer. Also find out when treatment needs to begin – having some leeway will give you more time to do learn about your specific type of cancer.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for emotional support, whether it is from loved ones, friends, support groups, or a social worker or psychotherapist. It’s important to communicate with loved ones about how you’re feeling and ways they can help. Most hospitals offer general and specific cancer support groups (e.g. breast and ovarian). The American Cancer Society has an online search tool to locate a huge array of services – from all types of assistance to specialized cancer support groups.

  1. The costs of cancer treatment can add to the stress you’re already experiencing. If you are uninsured or unemployed, paying for treatment may seem overwhelming. Most hospitals and treatment centers have financial counselors and patient navigators who can assist with insurance paperwork and give you an estimate of the cost of your treatment. CancerCare provides limited financial assistance to help pay for cancer-related costs such as transportation and childcare.

  1. Allow yourself to cry and confront difficult emotions, but avoid lashing out at loved ones. Journaling is therapeutic way to work through some of your feelings. Gentle, mind- and body-soothing activities such as meditation, massage, yoga, swimming, and walking can help ease the mental and physical effects of chemotherapy.

  1. Lifestyle changes can help you feel more in control. Eating numerous small snacks throughout the day rather than three big meals can lessen bouts of nausea or queasiness. If you smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol, it would help to limit this or quit.

  1. Homeopathic approaches have not been extensively studied, however, some cancer survivors find complementary treatments quite beneficial. For example, actress Pam Grier credited Chinese medicine for helping her beat stage-four cervical cancer. Her doctor suggested Eastern medicine after Western drug-treatment failed to completely heal her.

  1. Groundbreaking advances have been made in cancer treatment, and in many cases, it can be treated like a chronic disease rather than a fatal one. If your cancer team has tried scientifically-backed treatment without success, ask about clinical trials. Research is crucial for advancing treatments. By participating, this may improve your own health situation, as well as help thousands of other patients.

Above all, continue to live life to the fullest and do the things you love doing, as much as possible.