At Chemocare.com, we realize how difficult it can be when you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer and will begin cancer treatment. You are not alone.
From the moment you are diagnosed with cancer, you are a cancer survivor. There is no distinction between survivors who actively are undergoing treatment and survivors who are in remission. The definition is simple: If you are living with cancer, you are a survivor.
Survivors often credit their cancers with giving them a new perspective. Cancer forced them to focus on those things that are truly important in their lives.
It's important to remember that you didn't choose cancer. However, you do have choices about how to handle it.
At Chemocare.com, we are dedicated to helping you face the challenges associated with your diagnosis and cancer treatment.
Fighting cancer-or any other threatening illness-takes strength. Some cancer chemotherapy and other treatments may cause side effects that leave you feeling overwhelmed, tired and without much of an appetite.
Numerous medical and non-medical strategies are available to help you cope.
When faced with a serious illness, choosing a doctor or hospital is an important decision. Consider the following quality factors when evaluating your choices for specialized cancer care:
Don't be afraid to ask questions. When comparing cancer centers and their respective treatments, ask about these quality factors. The answers to all of these questions can help you make an informed decision about your health care.
A good first step is to ask your family doctor for a referral to a multidisciplinary cancer center that uses a team approach to cancer treatment. Get the names of several doctors and hospitals that have the most experience in treating your cancer and that offer the newest, most effective treatments, including experimental therapies.
You should not be afraid to seek a second opinion. A good doctor will not be offended if you want to discuss your diagnosis and cancer treatment options with another physician. Although some insurance companies require a referral from your primary care physician, in many cases you may seek a second opinion on your own.
Before you begin to call around for information, do the following:
To make sure that a hospital offers a multidisciplinary approach, you may wish to ask the following questions:
If you receive satisfactory answers from more than one hospital, ask the following questions to make comparisons between different institutions.
In general, patients experience better results from doctors and hospitals that have more experience in providing specialized medical and surgical care for their types of cancer.
Make sure that the physician managing your care is primarily in clinical practice-seeing patients-and not spending most of his or her time in the research laboratory. To find out, ask how much of his or her time is spent in patient care and how much time is spent in research.
Credentials have been set by nationally recognized medical professional organizations to verify that doctors and hospitals meet certain standards in health care delivery.
Physicians. Board certification, or the international equivalent, is a sign that doctors are highly trained in their fields. For physicians who practice in specialties without national boards-such as breast cancer surgery-additional training and certification in a broader field-such as general surgery-are usually good measures of their qualifications.
Hospitals. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) is the nationwide authority that surveys hospitals. To be accredited by JCAHO, a hospital must meet certain criteria for staffing, equipment and facility safety requirements. Accreditation is voluntary; however, if the hospital that you are considering is not accredited, it is important to know why.
Information about a hospital's reputation is widely available through the mass media, listings, the government, consumer groups, books and magazines such as U.S. News & World Report, which annually rates America's best hospitals.
Hospitals with a broad range of cancer treatment services can treat more complex medical conditions and better handle complications that may occur.
Specialty departments. Cancer and its treatments have physical, psychological and emotional effects. Cancer may affect multiple body organs and systems, and some cancer treatments can produce a variety of side effects. Therefore, immediate access to a full range of specialty departments within a cancer care facility is critical.
Diagnostic and treatment options. Choosing a facility that can diagnose and treat your cancer in a variety of ways allows you to get the most effective, appropriate and cost-effective treatment available.
The diagnosis and treatment of cancer should involve health care professionals from many disciplines working as a team. Depending on the specifics of your illness, the team may include oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, radiologists, pathologists and specialists who can manage possible treatment side effects.
When you see your doctor and discuss your cancer treatment, it is a good idea to have a list of prepared questions. Many patients say that they have so much on their minds that they find it difficult to focus. You may find it helpful to bring a friend or family member with you to take notes because often a particular question may be answered during the course of conversation. Also, it is good to have a second "set of ears" to validate the information.
Questions you may wish to ask your physician include:
You may find that you need to ask some of these questions again at different times during the course of treatment.
Many of the factors that determine cancer outcomes are beyond your control. These include the type of cancer, the stage of the cancer, your general health and your age. However, you can increase your chances for a positive outcome by taking an active role in your health care and by selecting a cancer center based on the information in this guide.
The Internet has become a huge resource for information gathering. While there is great potential to educate individuals about medical care, there also is potential to cause harm through wrong, misleading and deceptive information, particularly with respect to cancer.
Benefits. Many reputable cancer-related health organizations, such as the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), have Web sites. From reputable sites, you can access information on:
Risks. Unfortunately, there is no quality control for information or advice found on the Internet. Many sources, both good and bad, look alike on a computer screen. Users are left to try to sort through the information alone and determine fact from fiction.
Tips for gathering cancer and cancer treatment information on the Internet
Support Groups. Support groups offer patients, families and friends an opportunity to share information about their cancer experiences and have their concerns, fears and hopes reaffirmed by others who are experiencing similar challenges.
Look Good, Feel Better. Sponsored by the American Cancer Society and the Cosmetology Association, the program provides makeovers and tips for making oneself look and feel better while going through cancer treatment. Reservations are necessary.
You may hear that "attitude is everything." Accept that you won't always feel positive; you will have bad days, and that's all right.
Let others help. It can be therapeutic for them and you.
Learn as much as you can about your cancer and its potential treatment. Knowledge will give you a better sense of control over your disease.
Do things just for you: read the comic strip section in the newspaper; indulge in a long, luxurious bath; learn some relaxation techniques.
If the idea of a support group doesn't appeal to you, consider keeping a journal. Writing down your experience can be therapeutic and healing.
There's no such thing as a stupid question. Your medical team members are trained to answer your questions; they won't know that you don't understand something unless you ask.
Make plans for the future. Whether it's planning a weekend getaway or planting a garden, plans give you hope and something positive to anticipate.
You're not alone.
Note: We strongly encourage you to talk with your health care professional about your specific medical condition and treatments. The information contained in this website is meant to be helpful and educational, but is not a substitute for medical advice.