5 tips for newly diagnosed cancer patients

August 24, 2016 | by Joseph Kash, MD

If you have been recently diagnosed with cancer, you may be going through a myriad of emotions. A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, shocking and scary. Knowledge is power at this time –understanding your disease and treatment options can help you navigate the many different emotions and changes in your life.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you approach your diagnosis:

  1. Put yourself first. Don’t be afraid to step back and take a deep breath. This is your time to focus on you. Try to eat healthy, stay active, get good sleep and set aside time for yourself as much as possible. Practice relaxation techniques, mindfulness, journaling, yoga or other stress reducers.

  2. Be your own advocate. Choose a cancer team that will work with you and clearly explain what you can expect every step of the way. Take notes when you meet with your doctor and ask questions if you do not understand something. It may help to bring a family member or friend along for support and for a second set of ears.

  3. Get informed. Take an active role in your cancer care by learning what you can about the disease and your options for treatment. You should feel comfortable asking questions and talking openly with your doctor. Cancer Support Community recommends asking these questions:
    • What type of cancer do I have?
    • What stage is my cancer? What does the stage mean?
    • What symptoms of cancer might I experience?
    • What other types of tests will I need? 
    • Where can I get a second opinion?
    • What are the treatment goals (is it to cure the cancer, control the cancer, or relieve symptoms)?
    • Which treatment do you recommend, and why? 
    • What are the risks and benefits of each treatment option?
    • What side effects might I experience, and how can they be managed or prevented?
    • What treatments and other services are covered by my insurance? What options do I have to help cover costs?

  4. Ask for help. Be specific about your needs – if you need someone to talk to or need assistance with errands or making dinner, say something. Learning to ask and accept help can make the cancer journey a bit easier.

  5. Find comfort in a support system. Lean on others for strength and support. Luckily, there are many resources available that can help you connect with others who have cancer and learn more about the road ahead.

In addition to talking to your cancer team, there is a lot of helpful cancer-related information and resources on the internet. Just make sure you pay attention to the website’s credibility. American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute are great references to help you learn more about coping with cancer.

Getting the news that you have cancer is a life-changing event. Remember to take it one day at a time and find comfort in knowing you are not alone – and support is available.

What tips do you have for others recently diagnosed? Tell us in the below comments.

Learn about cancer services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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