It’s a phrase no one is ever prepared to hear, "you have cancer.”
Those words can send shock and fright through your body, whether it’s the first time you’re hearing them or this is your second or even third battle with the disease. Just the thought of a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, and that’s where we want to help.
Battling cancer is not easy, but you can do it. Our hope is that this guide helps you take control of your diagnosis and proves to be an effective resource to both you and your loved ones during this difficult time.
Please click on a link below to view additional information.
What is a cancer risk factor?
The National Cancer Institute defines a risk factor as anything that increases the chance you will develop cancer. Listed below in the FAQs are the most common risk factors, according to the National Cancer Institute.
At what age do my risks increase?
Age is the dominant risk factor for cancer. The majority of cancers develop in people 65 and older, but people of all ages, including children, can get cancer, too.
Does my family history indicate that I am risk for hereditary cancer?
About 5-10% of all cancers are inherited, meaning mutations in specific genes are passed from one blood relative to another. If you inherit one of these abnormal genes, you may have a greater chance of developing cancer. Risk indicators in the family are cancer at an early age, several members with the same type of cancer, and rare cancers. If you have these types of cancer in your family history, speak with your doctor about strategies to monitor and manage possible risks. Common cancers associated with family history include breast, colon/rectal, ovarian, prostate and endocrine.
What types of viruses and bacteria can cause cancer?
Being infected with certain viruses or bacteria may increase the risk of developing cancer:
- Human papillomaviruses (HPVs): HPV infection is the main cause of cervical cancer. It also may be a risk factor for other types of cancer. A HPV vaccine is now available.
- Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C viruses: Liver cancer can develop after many years of infection with hepatitis B or hepatitis C.
- Human T-cell leukemia/lymphoma virus (HTLV-1): Infection with HTLV-1 increases a person's risk of lymphoma and leukemia.
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV): HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. People who have HIV infection are at greater risk of cancer, such as lymphoma and a rare cancer called Kaposi sarcoma.
- Epstein-Barr virus (EBV): Infection with EBV has been linked to an increased risk of lymphoma.
- Human herpes virus 8 (HHV8): This virus is a risk factor for Kaposi's sarcoma.
- Helicobacter pylori: This bacterium can cause stomach ulcers. It also can cause stomach cancer and lymphoma in the stomach lining.
How do the hormones affect my risk?
Some studies show that menopausal hormone therapy (estrogen and progestin) may cause the risk of breast cancer, heart attack, stroke or blood clots. The same may be true of testosterone replacement therapy. Researchers say that testosterone replacement may introduce risks that are not fully known. If hormone therapy is suggested, explore the possible risk factors with a doctor.
Which chemicals do I need to watch out for?
Chemicals in the workplace may put some people at risk. Studies have shown painters, construction workers, and those in the chemical industry who have prolonged exposure to asbestos, benzene, Benzedrine, cadmium, nickel or vinyl chloride in the workplace have an increased risk of cancer. Although the risk is highest for workers with years of exposure, anyone handling pesticides, used engine oil, paint, solvents, and other chemicals should exercise caution and follow directions for use.
What is ionizing radiation?
Ionizing radiation is high frequency radiation with enough energy to damage the DNA in cells, which can cause cancer. Common sources of ionizing radiation are from rays that enter the Earth's atmosphere from outer space, radioactive fallout, radon gas and X-rays.
Radioactive fallout can come from accidents at nuclear power plants or from the production, testing, or use of atomic weapons. People exposed to fallout may have an increased risk of cancer, especially leukemia and cancers of the thyroid, breast, lung, and stomach.
Radon is a radioactive gas that you cannot see, smell, or taste. It forms in soil and rocks. People who work in mines may be exposed to radon. In some parts of the country, radon is found in houses. People exposed to radon are at increased risk of lung cancer. Medical procedures are a common source of radiation. Low dose radiation comes from X-rays, and risk of cancer is very low. High dose radiation is used for cancer treatments. For both, the benefits nearly always outweigh the risk.
How serious are sunlight and UV rays?
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation comes from the sun and tanning beds causing early aging of the skin and damage that can lead to skin cancer. Doctors encourage people of all ages to limit their time in the sun and to avoid other sources of UV radiation. Sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15 should always be worn when in the sun.
Do all forms of tobacco increase my cancer risk?
Tobacco in any form can cause cancer. Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of cancer. Using tobacco products or regularly being around tobacco smoke (environmental or secondhand smoke) increases the risk of cancer. Smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to develop cancer of the lung, larynx (voice box), mouth, esophagus, bladder, kidney, throat, stomach, pancreas or cervix. They also are more likely to develop acute myeloid leukemia (cancer that starts in blood cells). Smokeless tobacco (snuff or chewing tobacco) increases risk of cancer of the mouth.
How does alcohol contribute to cancer risk?
Drinking in moderation, one drink for women and two drinks for men per day, is advisable. Having more than one or two drinks each day for many years may increase the chance of developing cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, larynx, liver and breast. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol a person drinks and if tobacco is used with the alcohol.
What are some diet and exercise tips that reduce cancer risk?
People who have a poor diet, do not have enough physical activity, or are overweight may be at increased risk of several types of cancer. Diets high in fat may cause an increased risk of colon, uterus and prostate cancers. Lack of physical activity and being overweight are risk factors for breast, colon, esophagus, kidney and uterus cancers.
To reduce these risks, eat a nutritious diet and exercise to maintain a healthy weight. Your diet should include foods that are high in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Low-fat meats, nuts, whole grain breads, fruits and vegetables help to build immunity to cancers. Limit foods high in fat such as butter, whole milk and fried foods.
As you can see, you can reduce your risk for most cancers by living a healthy lifestyle. If you have questions about decreasing your risk factors, speak to your doctor. Together, you can create a strategy including lifestyle changes and screenings for a healthier you.
What screenings should I schedule and when?
Determining what screenings to schedule and when to schedule them will be a decision made by you and your doctor. Circumstances that influence this decision are age, family history and lifestyle. These facts indicate if you are at an average, increased or high risk of developing a cancer. It is important to know and share this information with your doctor, so he or she can make an informed decision. For more information about risk factors specific to common cancers, see the links below.
Lexington Clinic recommends screening exams for the following types of cancer, regardless of risk factors, because research shows that regular screening may reduce death from these cancers.
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that forms in a woman's cervix, which is located in the lower part of the uterus. Most cervical cancer is caused by a sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus. Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer in women and can often be successfully treated in the early stages, making routine pap tests, which check for cancer cells, essential for early detection.
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Endometrial (uterine) cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the lining of a woman-s uterus. Endometrial cancer is the most common form of uterine cancer, typically occurring in women age 50 and older. Endometrial cancer, if found in early stages, is very treatable.
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Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that forms in a woman's ovaries, the female reproductive organ that produces eggs. Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women. Early symptoms of ovarian cancer may be vague and can be attributed to other conditions. To increase your chances of an early diagnosis, when cancer is most treatable, remember that early symptoms of ovarian cancer often follow a pattern. They start suddenly, feel different than normal digestive or menstrual problems, and they occur almost daily and do not go away.
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Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that forms in a man's prostate, the male reproductive gland that produces seminal fluid. Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men, and when found in its early stages is very treatable. Generally, early stage prostate cancer has few symptoms, but symptoms typically appear as cancer progresses.
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Colon and Rectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer refers to cancers that form in either the colon or rectum. Colorectal cancer is most common in people age 50 and older. Colorectal cancer, if found in the early stages, is one of the most treatable forms of cancer. Generally early stage colorectal cancer has no symptoms, but symptoms typically appear as cancer progresses.
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Lung cancer is a type of cancer that forms in lung tissue, most often beginning in the cells that line the bronchi tubes. There are two main types of lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, which is the most common type, and small cell lung cancer. If cancer begins somewhere else in the body and spreads to the lungs, it is called metastatic lung cancer. Generally, early stage lung cancer has no symptoms, but symptoms typically appear as cancer progresses and affects lung function.
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Skin cancer is a type of cancer that forms on skin. While this form of cancer most commonly affects skin that has been repeatedly exposed to sunlight, it can also occur on skin that received little or no sun exposure. There are three main types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
How is cancer diagnosed?
A cancer diagnosis is rarely the result of a single test or procedure. The diagnosis process combines a thorough patient history and physical examination with diagnostic testing to determine whether a person has cancer or has a condition with symptoms that mimic cancer.
Procedures used to diagnose cancer may include laboratory testing, genetic testing, biopsy, endoscopy or surgery. These procedures can help cancer experts confirm or eliminate the presence of disease, monitor the disease process, and plan for and evaluate the effectiveness of treatment.
A type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. Depending on the type and stage of cancer, chemotherapy can cure cancer, control cancer or ease cancer symptoms. The types of drugs used during chemotherapy depend on the type of cancer being treated, whether chemotherapy has been used before and other health problems, such as diabetes.
IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy)
Produces a dose of radiation that tightly conforms to the 3 dimensional shape of the target by varying both the beam shape and intensity across the shaped fields during this treatment. This allows your physician to sculpt the dose to more effectively treat the tumor and protect adjacent normal tissues and critical organs.
IGRT (Image Guided Radiation Therapy)
A form of adaptive radiation therapy which utilizes imaging technology to visually localize and direct radiation to the intended target. Due to organ movement within the body, the target for treatment can change based upon that movement. This target may be adjusted before treatment to insure that the correct site is treated and that critical structures are spared.
Cone Beam CT Imaging for IGRT
Cone beam technology creates three-dimensional axial CT slices of a patient's tumor, enabling therapists and doctors to compare these images with initial treatment planning images to determine how precisely focused the radiation set-up is. They can then make position adjustments, if necessary, to deliver a more targeted therapy to the patient. This technology leads to more highly customized radiation treatments, where higher doses are directed at the tumor, while sparing the patient's normal body structures.
Radio-active seeds implanted surgically into the prostate for treatment of certain forms of prostate cancer.
In-house, networked CT scanning system which maximizes accuracy of treatment area by allowing 3-dimensional viewing of patient anatomy, coupled with 3-dimensional treatment planning and delivery.
Three-dimensional Treatment Planning
Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3DCRT): A treatment plan in which the profile of each radiation beam is shaped to fit the profile of the target from a beam's eye view using a multi-leaf collimator and a variable number of beams. When the treatment volume conforms to the shape of the tumor, the relative toxicity of radiation to the surrounding normal tissues is reduced, allowing a higher dose of radiation to be delivered to the tumor than conventional techniques would allow.
John D. Lindgren Resource Room
Dedicated as a memorial to local television journalist John Lindgren, the John E. Lindgren Patient and Family Resource Room provides a wealth of cancer-related educational resources for patients and their families. Members of the oncology treatment team are available to speak with and assist patients and their families in locating information. The room is open weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Library of Cancer Resource and Information Links
Information is a powerful tool when facing a cancer diagnosis. To assist you in your search for education and resources Lexington Clinic Cancer Centers offer an extensive link library, categorized by cancer type. If you find you have questions based on the information you read, please make a list of these questions to bring to your next appointment.
Start with these websites
- American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)
- American Cancer Society
- National Cancer Institute
- Oncolink/American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASC)
General Cancer Information
- American Institute for Cancer Research
- American Society of Clinical Oncology
- Association of Cancer Online Resources
- Cancer Care
- Cancer Education
- Cancer Research Institute
- International Cancer Alliance
- NCI Cancer Trials
- National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship
- National Comprehensive Cancer Network
- National Library of Medicine
- Prevent Cancer Foundation
- Spanish Language Resource
- AARP Grief and Loss
- Association for Death Education
- Children's Hospice International
- Dying Well
- Hospice Net
- National Hospice Organization
- National Association for Home Care
- Partnership for Caring
Cancer Specific Resources
Brain Cancer - Neurological Oncology
- Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (STAR Trial)
- Awareness Month
- Breast Cancer Action
- CAMP Breast Forms
- National Alliance Breast Cancer Organization
- Sisters Network
- Susan G. Komen Foundation
- Young Survival Coalition
- Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project
- American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons
- Colon Cancer Alliance
- United Ostomy Association
- Gynecologic Oncology Group
- National Women's Health Information
- Self-Help for Women
- Society of Gynecologic Oncologists
Leukemia, Lymphoma, Multiple Myeloma
- International Myeloma Foundation
- Leukemia Research Association
- Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America
- Lymphoma Research Foundation of America
- Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation
Mesothelioma (Asbestos-related Cancer)
- American Urological Association Foundation
- American Prostate Society
- Prostate Cancer Foundation
- Prostate Cancer Research Institute
- Man to Man (American Cancer Society's support group)
- Men's Health Network
- National Association for Continence
- National Prostate Cancer Coalition
- The Simon Foundation for Continence
- Us Too International
Cancer Centers Financial Counseling and Insurance
At Lexington Clinic's cancer centers, we understand that fighting cancer can be overwhelming at times. While our team of skilled healthcare professionals is available to address your physical and emotional needs, our financial counseling staff is available to assist you in understanding the financial aspects of your care.
As a new patient, you will meet with a financial coordinator, complete a patient information form and verify your insurance information. Please bring your insurance card(s) with you. If you are covered by more than one insurance company, please let us know which company is the primary carrier. This will help to avoid delays in receiving benefits. If there is any change in your health coverage, please contact our office to update your records.
Part of your financial planning process may include enrollment into foundation and/or copayment assistance programs which may offer assistance with your out-of-pocket cancer care expenses. Our financial coordinator will provide you with details of these programs and will assist you in the enrollment process.
We participate with most major insurance companies and will submit claims to your carrier on your behalf. We also accept Medicare assignment. However, you will be responsible for the deductible and co-payment amounts for provided service. You should consult your insurance carrier or your benefit booklet for a list of providers and benefits available to you. Also, please inform our office if pre-certification is necessary with your plan.
Some insurance companies require you to use a specific laboratory or to obtain referrals or pre-authorization for office visits, hospital admissions and treatment. It is your responsibility to obtain the initial referral and bring this to your first appointment. If you need assistance with your insurance requirements, it is our pleasure to assist you.
Co-payments are payable at the time of your visit. We accept Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express. We will be happy to assist you in developing a payment plan.
If you have specific insurance questions, please contact our financial coordinators at (859) 258-6535.
What to Bring to Your Initial Visit
Please be sure to bring all medications you take, including prescriptions, those you buy over the counter, and alternative medicines. If you will need to take your medication anytime during your appointment, please be sure to bring your medication with you.
Please bring your current insurance card(s) in addition to a photo ID. A list of insurance plans accepted by Lexington Clinic can be found at LexingtonClinic.com/insurance. For questions regarding insurance acceptance, call our business office at (859) 258-6200.
Other Ways to Prepare for Your Appointment
- Please feel free to bring a snack or lunch with you. Your initial visit may last anywhere from one to three hours.
- Write down any questions or concerns you may have before your first visit and bring them with you.
- Please arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled appointment for registration.
- If your referring physician is not a Lexington Clinic physician, please bring any recent scans, X-rays and reports if you have them.
- Arrange for a friend or family member to come with you for support and to help listen and take notes if desired.
- Let us know whenever you change your address, telephone number or insurance.
- Wheelchairs are available if you need one.
Cancer Support Groups
Lexington Clinic is committed to the health and well-being of our patients. We understand that treatment is just one component of cancer care and have compiled a library of group and community support services to assist you.
Lexington Clinic Sponsored Support Groups
The Pink Ribbon Club
A support group for women with breast cancer or those who have had breast cancer. Meetings take place at the Lexington Clinic Center for Breast Care on the second Tuesday of each month from 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. and offer women an opportunity to discuss breast cancer experiences, learn about resources and options, and receive emotional support from others facing breast cancer. For more information on the group, call (859) 258-4932.
Partners in Pink
A support group for the loved ones of breast cancer patients. The group, which strives to offer education, support and encouragement, meets quarterly at the Lexington Clinic Center for Breast Care and welcomes parents, siblings, spouses, partners, significant others and friends of breast cancer patients. For more information on the group, call (859) 258-4932.
Community or Organization
Sponsored Support Groups
Look Good...Feel Better (Women Only)
A support group that teaches female cancer patients a variety of beauty techniques to enhance their appearance. Meetings are held monthly at the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge and at The John D. Cronin Cancer Center. Attendees will receive complimentary cosmetics. Pre-registration is required. To make a reservation, contact Ashley Voss, American Cancer Society at (859) 260-8281.
I Can Cope
A program that helps cancer patients and those close to them learn about diagnosis and treatment while meeting others who are facing similar experiences. For more information, please call Ashley Voss, American Cancer Society at (859) 260-8281.
LIVESTRONG at the YMCA
Cancer is a life-changing disease that takes a tremendous physical and emotional toll on those affected. The Y and LIVESTRONG have joined together to create LIVESTRONG at the YMCA, a research-based physical activity and well-being program designed to help adult cancer survivors reclaim their total health. www.ymcaofcentralky.org/programs/chronic-health-initiatives/LIVESTRONG/
For Anyone Affected by Cancer
Cancer Support Group:
A support group for anyone affected by cancer. Meetings take place on the last Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. For details, contact Becky Doyle at (859) 887-2044, Mitsy Pine at (859) 885-5060, or Paula Sowers at (859) 885-9989.
Support Groups by Cancer Type
Reach to Recovery
An American Cancer Society peer support program for women with a concern about breast cancer. Patients can talk with volunteer breast cancer survivors, in person or over the phone, for support and encouragement. For additional information, call (800) 227-2345 or go to www.cancer.org.
The Journey Breast Cancer Support Group
Breast Cancer Survivors Group
A support group for those affected by breast cancer. Meetings take place on the third Monday of each month at 6:00 p.m. For more information, call Arlayne at (859) 623-4601.
Lost Chords Club
Man to Man
An American Cancer Society support and education program for people affected by prostate cancer. Spouses are welcome to attend. Guest speakers vary by month. Individual support is available from a survivor upon request. Meetings take place on the second Tuesday of the month at Baptist Health Lexington Cancer Resource Center, Building E, on the 7th floor at 6:40 p.m. For information, please call (800) 227-2345 or (859) 276-3223.