Following a cancer diagnosis, you might experience many feelings all at once, including confusion, anxiety, and anger. Thoughts might race through, and a myriad of questions may flood your mind. In those initial moments, the road ahead after a diagnosis may seem long and difficult. However, the good news is that millions of people have successfully fought with this disease.
If you also want to give yourself the best chance to recovery, take the following steps after a cancer diagnosis:
Table of Contents
1. Consult With the Right Professionals
Consultation with an oncologist is a critical step in the cancer journey. It serves as the foundation for developing a customized treatment plan. During the initial session, patients can expect a comprehensive evaluation of their medical history, a physical examination, and a discussion about the specifics of their cancer diagnosis.
The oncologist will review any diagnostic tests, such as biopsies, imaging scans, or blood work, to gain a complete understanding of the disease. Based on this assessment, the oncologist will discuss treatment options and provide recommendations.
When looking for an oncologist, consider the oncologist’s experience, especially in treating your specific type and stage of cancer. Ask about the number of cases they have handled and their success rates.
For example, Let’s say you are keeping up with mesothelioma. In that case, you should reach out to an expert who has helped a fair proportion of their patients reach mesothelioma remission. If you developed mesothelioma due to asbestos.
2. Get A Second Opinion If Necessary
Seeking a second opinion is standard practice in cancer care. So, a good oncologist should be open to the idea and may even be willing to recommend another specialist.
The primary reason for getting a second opinion is to confirm the diagnosis. Although cancer diagnoses are typically accurate, there could be instances of misdiagnosis or differences in interpretation. Getting another expert’s view will ensure that you have a correct and comprehensive understanding of your condition.
During the second opinion, provide all medical records, including pathology reports, imaging scans, and treatment plans. Be sure to ask relevant questions; an open and honest dialogue will help you make an informed decision.
3. Begin Cancer Treatment
Once you have discussed all the nitty-gritty in detail, it is time to start cancer treatment. Depending on the type, stage, and location of the cancer, the treatment could take various forms.
For instance, if you have been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, your treatment might involve surgery to remove the tumor, followed by a course of radiation therapy to eliminate any remaining cancer cells. On the other hand, if you have been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, your treatment could comprise a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy to slow down the cancer’s progression.
The timing and duration of treatment might also vary from case to case. Some treatments, like chemotherapy, may require regular sessions over several weeks or months. Others, like hormone therapy, may be taken in the form of daily pills for an extended period. You must adhere to your treatment schedule and follow your healthcare team’s recommendations closely to maximize the chances of success.
4. Manage Treatment Side Effects
Cancer therapies are powerful treatments that interfere with the growth and division of cells. While their primary target is cancer cells, they might also affect healthy cells that are rapidly dividing, such as those in the hair follicles, digestive tract, and bone marrow. Therefore, once the treatment starts, you will likely feel various side effects.
Fortunately, you can manage these side effects by following these strategies:
- Exercise regularly: Incorporate gentle exercise into your routine. Physical activity can help combat fatigue, improve mood, and maintain physical strength. Consult with your healthcare team or a physical therapist for guidance on appropriate exercises.
- Leverage mind-body practices: Consider adding relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or mindfulness into your daily routine. These practices will alleviate anxiety and improve your overall sense of control.
- Use cold caps: If you are concerned about hair loss due to chemotherapy, ask your healthcare team about cold caps. They reduce blood flow to the scalp, potentially minimizing hair loss during treatment.
- Pay attention to your nutrition: Maintain a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrients. That way, you can manage weight fluctuations and maintain optimal strength. Before making any changes to your diet plan, we recommend you reach out to a registered dietitian who specializes in oncology to develop a personalized nutrition plan.
- Stay informed: Educate yourself about your specific treatment and potential side effects. Understanding what to expect will prepare you to cope with the process more effectively.
5. Attend Follow-Up Appointments
Cancer treatment does not end with the last dose of chemotherapy or the final radiation session. Instead, it transitions into a phase of follow-up appointments. Your healthcare team will use these appointments to monitor your physical condition, review any lingering side effects or new symptoms, and ensure that there are no signs of cancer recurrence. Detecting any potential issues early on allows for timely intervention and more effective treatment.
Moreover, these appointments also ensure ongoing communication with your healthcare team. By maintaining a consistent dialogue with your oncologist, nurse, and other medical professionals, you can build a healthy relationship. As a result, you will not hesitate to discuss any changes in your medical history or lifestyle that may impact your health post-treatment.
Sometimes, patients may find it difficult to fit follow-up visits into their busy schedules. If you are one of them, try to schedule follow-up appointments on days when you are already in the vicinity for other activities, like grocery shopping or running errands. This makes it more convenient to fit appointments into your schedule.
Besides, you can find mobile apps that can help you manage medical appointments and medications. These apps can send you reminders and keep your medical information organized.
Regardless of how resilient you may be, you will likely feel confused and helpless after receiving a cancer diagnosis. Unlike in the past, cancer does not prove to be fatal in all cases. If you take the right actions at the right time, you may be able to beat this disease and live a healthy life once again.
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