Thursday, September 8, 2011

Yes, It's Cancer: Now What?

First, take a deep breath and try not to panic. We know that hearing those words, “you have cancer” is scary. But many cancers are treatable, and thyroid cancer in most cases has a 100% survival rate, so try and stay positive until you know all you can about your diagnosis. The more you learn, the less panicked you will feel.

You may want to avoid researching on the internet until you speak with a specialist about your specific type of thyroid cancer. Every cancer prognosis is unique because of the person’s age, gender, current health status, family health history, the genetic  make-up of the cancer and when the cancer was caught. Make sure you know what you are researching first!
  • Try not to panic and rush into treatment decisions before you have had a chance to think about your options, outcomes and associated costs. It’s important to understand the new terminology and explanation your doctor(s) have  provided. Make sure you have all your questions answered. There may be more than one option to consider, and a clear head is necessary for decision-making.
  • Call your insurance company right away. Tell them about  your condition. Ask to have a “case manager” so that  you have only one person to talk to for all your questions,  getting approvals, bills, reimbursements, etc. If you don’t have insurance, don’t panic. There are financial resources listed in the FINANCIAL RESOURCES TAB IN THIS BLOG.
  • Ask the nurse with whom you book your surgical consultation appointment what you need to bring with you to the appointment. If you have  a pathology report or scans, you will need to bring those. If doctors don’t have all your information, they won’t be able  to discuss your cancer and treatment options. Don’t sit in the waiting room for hours only to eventually find out you  didn’t bring the essential reports.
  • Be prepared for your doctor’s appointments with a list of questions and concerns written down. Many times newly diagnosed cancer patients are so nervous and scared they forget what they wanted to talk to their doctors about during the visit. It happens to almost everyone. It's OK to make a list and bring it with you. It will make you a better patient and partner in your care.
  • Try to bring someone with you who can take notes and ask questions with you. If this is not possible, prepare questions in advance and bring a tape recorder and tape the doctor’s conversation with his or her permission. Or  ask a nurse or volunteer at the doctor’s office to take notes for you if you are nervous and worried you may forget to ask an important question, misunderstand what the doctor says or miss something important about your treatment or next appointment.
  • Learn about your treatment options so you can make good choices. Get a second opinion or even a third from  a surgeon and/or oncologist (and even a plastic surgeon if needed). Don’t be afraid to ask doctors lots of questions. The more you understand, the less frightening and overwhelming your treatments will be.
  • If you have advanced thyroid cancer, find a doctor who takes part in a tumor board. A tumor board is an approach to treatment planning in which  several doctors with different specialties meet regularly to discuss the medical condition and treatment options of individual patients. A tumor board might be made up of a medical oncologist, who treats cancer with drugs, a surgical oncologist, who treats cancer with surgery, and a radiation oncologist, who treats cancer with radiation.
  • Designate a friend or family member to communicate to your friends. You will be receiving many phone calls from well-wishers and repeating your updates will become tiresome. There are also internet options for you to help keep friends and family informed. Find those resources and use them. If you need help ask your friends or family to please look up these resources for you and set them up.
  • If you work and are concerned about how to talk to your employer, go to It’s geared toward women, but the great advice it offers is for everyone.  It’s very important for you and your caregiver to understand the cost of your treatment options compared to the benefits of those treatments. For example, some therapies boast that that they give patients a “better” prognosis than another treatment option but will require a great deal of money because they are not covered by insurance. 
  • Find out what “better” actually means because if studies show that the treatment outcome is only better by six weeks, for example, do you really want to mortgage your home, spend your children’s college savings and incur massive amounts of debt? 

No comments:

Post a Comment