Finding out that you have cancer is accompanied with a lot of emotions, followed by a lot of questions. We asked our experts for some advice on navigating these questions and the first appointments following a cancer diagnosis.
In 2017, over 1.5 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in the U.S. There are many sources of information available to learn more about specific types of cancer, so it’s important to start by relying on accurate information.
“If you just found out you have cancer, it is very natural to feel scared and worried about the future,” says Christina Alsop, APRN, a cancer specialist at the Renown Health Institute for Cancer. “You will want to educate yourself, but please make sure you seek out information from well-known literature.”
The First Appointment
Before your first appointment with your physician, take some time to write down all the questions you have to ensure everything is answered. It’s a good idea to have a family member or friend to go to appointments with you. This person can give you support as well as an extra set of ears to help absorb all the information you will receive throughout your cancer diagnosis and care.
When discussing treatment options with your physician, there are a few topics you will want to cover:
- What type of cancer you have
- Side effects from treatment to expect
- Prognosis with or without treatment
- Your personal expectations from a treatment plan
Selecting a Physician
Alsop recommends consulting a medical oncologist, who is a specialist in cancer diagnosis and treatment, when you receive a diagnosis. This physician will drive your care for cancer treatment, which includes prescribing treatments such as chemotherapy, biotherapy or immunotherapy. They will also refer you to a specialist as needed, such as a radiation oncologist or surgeon.
Sometimes an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who specializes in medical oncology will assist the medical oncologist during your care. You will see the APRN for follow up visits, before chemotherapy treatments and if you experience uncontrolled side effects or symptoms.
When selecting a physician, Alsop recommends looking for someone that you feel comfortable with after an initial meeting.
Occasionally, a second opinion may be considered a good option. “A second opinion is everyone’s right to have, especially if you do not feel comfortable with the discussion you had with the first physician you saw,” Alsop says. “Also, if your cancer diagnosis and/or overall case is complicated, a second opinion is a good idea to hear from another specialist to ensure the treatment you proceed with is approved by multiple specialists and to give you peace of mind.”
Reno is rich with cancer specialists and most cancer patients can stay right here to receive their care. The Renown Institute for Cancer has a multidisciplinary, approach to care. Cancer specialists meet weekly to discuss new cases and treatment options.
When you first meet with your physician, he or she will provide you with the options that are available for the specific type cancer you have. All cancer treatments come with side effects, which will vary depending on which treatment you receive. Together, you and your medical oncologist will decide on the best options based on your current health status.
A concern for many people is if their insurance plans will cover the treatment plan. Early communication with your insurance plan is good idea. Your insurance plan will be approved when you schedule your initial appointments, before you see a physician. And after you and your physician decide on a treatment plan, the office and scheduling department will get authorization from your insurance company before your first day of treatment.
Once you begin your treatment, a range of support staff is available to assist you throughout your diagnosis. Registered nurses navigators, social workers, financial counselors and others will be available to help you address everything that comes up during this time.
Renown also offers support groups, which provide a safe space to share your experiences, hardships or concerns with others. Some of these support groups are also offered online, allowing you to gain support from the comfort of your home.
“Getting a cancer diagnosis can be a very scary moment in your life,” Alsop says. “Do not be afraid to seek help and assistance from support staff throughout your cancer diagnosis.”
To learn more about Renown Institute for Cancer, visit renown.org/cancer or call 775-982-4000.