Diagnosed with Cancer? What to Do Next

There may not be a single word in the English language that strikes fear in people’s hearts more readily than “cancer.” After all, an estimated 1.7 million Americans are diagnosed with the disease each year. More than half a million people die from it. Nothing can diminish the gravity of hearing the words coming out of a doctor’s mouth, but once they do there’s no turning back. After the initial shock wears off, patients will find they will likely need to make a series of serious decisions. Information will prove critical for guiding the process.
The following tips can help patients better navigate “what comes next” while ensuring they are armed with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions about treatment and care:

• Find a partner – Be it a friend, family member or spouse, pick a person to talk openly to about issues related to the disease and treatment. Also consider having this person present for medical appointments to make sure information and advice shared by healthcare providers is remembered and recorded with accuracy.
• Keep a notebook – Use this to keep appointments straight, store research and jot down questions for healthcare providers. This can be very helpful in ensuring patient questions are addressed before, during and after any treatments.
• Get educated – Find out more about the diagnosis, the treatments recommended and what to expect as treatments progress. Only use vetted sources and do keep that notebook handy for jotting down questions that arise.
• Consider a second opinion – Before diving into aggressive treatments, such as chemo or surgery, it can be wise to see a second, unbiased opinion.

Cancer is a serious diagnosis that often requires action to save lives. Patients, however, should be informed about their condition, the recommended treatments, side effects and other aspects of care. Taking the time to learn more, gain a second opinion on the diagnosis and map out a treatment plan can make sure patients remain educated and in as much control as possible as the process to fight the disease begins.

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