As a patient, you play an important role in preparing for your cancer treatment. The following are some of the most important things to consider before treatment begins:
Find an oncologist and treatment center. This step is important to everyone with cancer--you want to be sure you get the best care possible. Ask your general or primary care doctor for a referral to an oncologist (a doctor who specializes in treating cancer). You can also contact government and professional medical organizations, such as your state's health department, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), or the American Medical Association (AMA), for information on cancer specialists and treatment centers in your area.
Get a second opinion. It is common for people diagnosed with cancer to ask another cancer specialist for their opinion. A second opinion can help you to be sure your diagnosis and treatment plans are most appropriate for your individual medical history and profile. In fact, many health insurance companies require people to get a second opinion before treatment begins. Asking for a second opinion also provides more information to consider when making choices about your treatment. Often, your oncologist can help you locate another cancer specialist for a second opinion. Many hospitals and cancer centers have "tumor boards" where patient cases are presented to all of the disciplines involved in cancer care: medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, pathologists, radiologists, and others. The tumor board will discuss your case and offer suggestions or recommendations to your doctors. you can ask your doctor to present your case for a tumor board review.
Find out about your cancer treatment. Your cancer care team will help you understand your treatment and answer questions. It also helps to learn about the type of cancer you have, as well as your treatment options. Ask your doctor where you can find more information about cancer. This website contains information on many cancer topics. Also, the NCI, the American Cancer Society, and other cancer- and health-related organizations provide helpful information.
Find support when you need it. Cancer treatment can be a long and tiring experience. Many people with cancer need help throughout the process. Getting help from others can make your experience more successful. Support groups for people with cancer and their families are available in many communities. Managing your emotional health, your diet, and your finances are all things you can do to reduce the stress involved in the treatment process. Oncology nurses and social workers are excellent resources for locating appropriate support groups.