Finding out you have cancer can be daunting and sparks many questions, not the least of which is, "what do I do now?” In this section we have some tips to help you, as well as your friends and family, begin this journey and the battle against this disease.
Click on the topics below for more information.
The first step is to take a deep breath. Cancer can be overwhelming and frightening, but try not to panic. Many cancers are treatable, so stay positive and learn all you can about your diagnosis.
Don’t rush into treatment. Take time to weigh your options and discuss them with your doctors as well as your friends and family. We’ll talk about some pros and cons of possible treatments a little later.
Call your insurance company and ask for a case manager. This will give you a single point of contact who is familiar with your situation for any questions or concerns you might have throughout this process.
Pick a surgeon who specializes in your tumor type.
Ask your doctor if the anesthesiologists they work with are covered under your insurance.
Consider a second opinion. This doesn’t mean you don’t trust or believe your doctor, it’s just a way to reaffirm what you’re already being told.
Keep your doctor and pharmacy’s numbers handy.
Ask for any signs or symptoms you should report and don’t hesitate to call.
Ask your surgeon about possible after-effects from the surgery.
Chemotherapy and Radiation
CHEMOTHERAPY– Treatment in which a patient is given a combination of medications designed to kill cancer cells.
Effective in getting rid of cancer that has spread to multiple parts of the body
In some cases, can rid patient of cancer without surgery
Proven and successful track record in fighting cancer
Sometimes requires hospital stays
Can weaken your immune system making it difficult to fight off infections
Can cause fatigue, hair loss, nausea/vomiting and in some cases loss of taste.
RADIATION– Treatment that uses high-energy radiation to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells.
Effective at controlling the growth of localized cancer
Rarely requires hospital stays
Proven ability to shrink tumors
Can cause damage to the surrounding tissue and cells
Skin in the area can become red and extremely sore
In rare cases, the radiation can cause the development of a second cancer
Both chemotherapy and radiation treatments have shown to be effective against different types of cancers at different stages. Be sure to discuss all of your options with your doctor concerning your specific circumstances to make sure the treatment is right for you.
Many times surgery is needed as a part of the cancer treatment. If you require surgery and live alone or don’t have a caregiver we recommend you:
Ask someone to stay with you for as many days as your surgeon suggests. Some surgeries can require up to a couple weeks of recovery time.
Keep your pain medicine as well as a glass of water by your bed.
Get back to your routine as soon as possible but don’t rush yourself. Recovery takes time and rushing yourself can lead to more complications.
Planning for the Future
Having a well thought out plan for your future is a good idea, even for healthy people. It’s not always the most comfortable topic, but smart planning makes sure that YOU get to decide on the important decisions and it isn’t put in the hands of loved ones to guess what you would have wanted.
Create a living will. This document gives instructions for providers and allows you to state your wishes for care in case you become unable to communicate decisions. If you prefer someone else make decisions for you (e.g.: spouse, kids, etc.) you can designate a durable health care power of attorney. That person would then be legally authorized to make decisions for you, regarding your health, if you are unable to communicate your wishes.
Meet with an attorney to create or update your last will.
Designate a durable financial power of attorney to make financial decisions in case you are unable to communicate your wishes.
Discuss your diagnosis with your employer and review your health and disability coverages.
Check health coverage for things like palliative or hospice care.
Dos and Don’ts for
Friends and Family
Cancer not only robs the body of physical strength but it can also drain the emotions of the person going through this battle. As a family member or friend, your job is to lend help, support and encouragement but there are times when you can try to help too much. Here are simple tips to keep in mind.
DO let the person know that you care about them and you’re here to help, when they need it.
DON’T show-up at their house unexpectedly.
DO offer to help with small errands and projects.
DON’T assume your loved one wants you to do specific tasks. Ask first.
DO send friendly or inspirational notes your loved one can read at home or during treatment.
DON’T be afraid to touch your loved one.
DO listen. Your loved one has a lot on their mind and will want to talk.
Lexington Clinic is Central Kentucky's largest and oldest medical group. We have more than 200 providers in more than 30 specialties taking care of 600,000+ patients in the Lexington community since 1920.