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Finding out you have cancer can trigger a whole range of emotions.

Trust = Confidence

Confidence can really help with a positive attitude. Positive outcomes come from having a positive attitude.

Studies show that cancer (and other) patients who arm themselves with information typically fare better and experience fewer side effects than those who simply follow doctors’ orders, no questions asked. Being informed gives them some control over their disease—and that feeling of empowerment plays a role in the healing process. No. 1 rule: do not be cowed by your doctor. Ask him or her to explain anything and everything you don’t understand. Prepare questions in advance of appointments (to reduce stress and the odds of forgetting any)—and bring a notebook to jot down answers and other important info. 

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Below are some questions you should ask:

  • What causes this type of cancer?
  • What are the risk factors? If it’s genetic, are other family members at risk?
  • What lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, rest) do you recommend?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • Are there activities that should be avoided because they might trigger or 
    exacerbate symptoms?
  • What happens if new symptoms crop up or existing ones worsen?
  • What medical tests or procedures are necessary? How often?
  • What stage is my cancer? What does that mean?
  • What is my overall prognosis or chance of recovery?
  • What are the average survival and cure rates?
  • Could my disease go into remission?
  • What is the recommended treatment?
  • How often will I have to undergo treatment—and for how long?
  • What are the potential side effects?
  • What are the benefits versus the risks of each treatment option?
  • Are there alternative therapies? What are they?
  • What are the expected results of treatment?
  • Is the treatment painful? If so, is there a way to make it more bearable?
  • How long is the recovery? Will it require a hospital stay?
  • When can I resume my normal activity (if it’s been curtailed)?
  • Has my cancer spread? If so, how does this change treatment decisions?
  • Am I eligible for any clinical trials?
  • What happens if my disease progresses while I’m in a clinical trial?
  • Who foots the bills if I participate in a clinical trial?
  • Where can I find emotional, psychological and spiritual support?
  • Whom should I call with questions or concerns after office hours?
  • May I contact you or a nurse if I have questions or more symptoms? (If the answer is “no,” find another doctor.

Tips helping a cancer survivor with medical services

  • Research their condition, the consultant and hospitals
  • Help them prepare questions
  • Join them in the consultations if they want it – take notes or record it
  • Check if they are satisfied afterward
  • Call a helpline if it does no feel right – see the links below

Getting help with finances
if you get cancer

Coping with a cancer diagnosis is challenging enough without having to worry about finances. These days it is so difficult to have “rainy day” savings to help at these times but there are some affordable insurance policies which will pay you a cash lump sum on diagnosis of cancer to help you stop money worries and let you focus on getting better.

If you have, or have had cancer, you might not be eligible for insurance, but there are still some excellent resources available, Macmillan in particular offer specialised support for cancer patients with money worries.

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Real life stories

The NHS runs a regular program to look for signs of breast cancer and two years prior to my discovering a lump in my right breast I had already had one ‘scare’ arising from that programme. I went to our GP without delay and she packed me off to the Nuffield hospital for a mammogram. The result came back quite quickly, in the following week as I recall, confirming my fears. I felt numb at first and then very frightened. I was aged 52 at the time.

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