Let’s look at six ways you can take the lead with cancer treatment:
Communicate actively with your doctor. Share how you’re feeling, both physically and emotionally. Are you encountering a challenge? Did you see a news story or read an article that caught your attention? Did someone tell you about an investigational drug? Ask questions and express concerns.
Go to the head of your class. The more you know, the more confidence you will have when making decisions. Set yourself the goal to be well informed. Learn about the range of treatments and the latest studies. Ask your doctor for recommended sources of information and education, such as cancer websites, non-profit organizations, and support groups.
Get a second opinion. Before you start treatment, seek out - or ask for a referral to - a specialist who focuses on your specific type of cancer. A second opinion is important to validate your diagnosis and ensure you have all the information you need to guide your decisions. There may be advances in research and treatment that could benefit you, and a highly specialized physician will know the most about them.
Consider clinical trials. Clinical trials offer access to leading-edge cancer therapies before they are available in the broader market. They are rigorously monitored, and participating patients receive close attention and expert care. Ask your doctor if there are clinical trials that may be right for you.
Ask others to lend a hand. Your loved ones are motivated to help, but they may be waiting for you to signal that you’re ready. Raise your hand and reach out to family and friends for emotional support and assistance with everyday tasks. Your doctor may be able to connect you with supportive care services and community resources.
Save time each day for self-care. With a strong support network in place, it’s easier to take the time you need to care for your psychological and emotional health during cancer treatment. Set aside daily physical and mental space devoted to friends, relaxation, and favorite activities.
The most effective way to make sure you get the support you need before, during, and after cancer treatment is to be your own advocate. Gather knowledge, ask for what you need, and talk about your thoughts and feelings with your physician, family, and friends. Self-advocacy can be a positive experience that reinforces your sense of control and guides important decisions about your care.
Tingting Tan, M.D., Ph.D., is a medical oncologist at City of Hope Newport Beach Fashion Island specializing in lung cancer.
Visit www.cityofhope.org/OC to learn more. To make an appointment at any of City of Hope’s four Orange County locations, click here or call: