What is some good advice for those newly diagnosed with cancer?
Question: What advice would you have for someone who’s newly diagnosed with cancer?
Dr. Perre: As a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor myself, I fully understand what it feels like to be in the patient’s shoes. As scary and devastating as it may be, it is important to remember the reasons to remain hopeful. It is also important to seek information and educate oneself throughout the process. Although the internet can be a source of misinformation, reputable sites such as the American Cancer Society or the National Cancer Institute may provide good information. Ultimately, a person should feel comfortable in asking the medical oncologist about his or her diagnosis, as that relationship is critical throughout the journey.
An accurate diagnosis is crucial since it is the basis upon which the treatment plan is created. It is also important for a patient to have a clear understanding of the diagnosis, so that he or she can play an active role in the formulation of the treatment plan. I often remind my patients to ask questions throughout the process to ensure they stay well-informed and better equipped to navigate the road ahead.
There are several key points to understand when learning about your diagnosis, including: origin of the cancer; histologic type (adenocarcinoma or squamous cell are common types); size and location of the tumor(s); clinical or pathologic stage; and what genetic or protein markers are relevant for their type of cancer.
Before undergoing treatment, it is important for a patient to understand the expected benefits and possible side effects or late effects of a specific treatment. This can help the patient determine which treatment options he or she prefers as well as be proactive in managing the treatment. Some key questions to ask the care team include:
- What are the likely side effects of treatment and how will they be addressed?
- How long will the treatment last?
- What are the common symptoms to look for (such as fever, swelling or pain in a particular area)?
- How will my response to treatment be followed (physical examination, blood tests or scans)?
Once treatment has been completed, the patient should make sure to have a summary of the treatments received, as well as any resources that provide education on survivorship. This can include information ranging from support groups to healthy lifestyle recommendations to managing long-term effects of treatment.*
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Anthony Perre, M.D., is Director of New Patient Intake and Vice Chief of Administrative Affairs at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® in Philadelphia. In addition to his special interest in cancer survivorship, his clinical expertise includes hospital medicine, venous thromboembolic disease and medical informatics. He has been recognized as a “Top Doctor” by Philadelphia magazine, and in 2013 was recognized as one of Castle Connolly’s Top Doctors®.
* This content is provided and sponsored by Cancer Treatment Centers of America ®. The information is provided for general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment, or as a substitute for consultation with a physician or health care professional. If you have specific questions or concerns about your health, you should consult your health care professional.