Learning that you have cancer is probably one of the most difficult experiences you’ll endure in a lifetime. While a cancer diagnosis is terrifying (as well as many other things), it’s important to remember that advances in treatment methods have come leaps and bounds over the years.
Remember, cancer is a word, not a sentence.
If you have cancer, the following information may help you to better cope with your diagnosis.
What to Do Immediately Following Your Diagnosis
Take time for yourself to feel the way you feel.
Fear, anger, shock, sadness, hopelessness — there’s no one response to a cancer diagnosis. No matter how you feel, it’s important to take a few days to process your feelings and realize that you’re life is going to be a bit different moving forward.
Learn about your diagnosis.
Cancer is a very broad term that’s used to describe hundreds of different diseases. Even if you know someone who had cancer, your journey will likely be very different from theirs.
The first thing you should do is learn what type of cancer you have and what stage (severity) it is. You should then discuss with your doctor what your treatment options are and the risks associated with them.
Make yourself priority number one.
Especially for those with little kids or hectic jobs, it can be tempting to want to “push through” your regular routine. And though cancer won’t affect every aspect of your life, it will require you to change some things. If you’re not feeling well, don’t hesitate to call out of work or ask a friend to bring your children to their activities. Right now, your health is what’s most important.
Organize your schedule and records.
Your days are about to be filled with doctor’s visits, testing, therapy, and much more, so it’s important to keep your appointments written in a calendar. You should also consider buying a binder to keep your medical records in.
“What type of cancer do I have?”
As we said before, cancer is a very general term, so you’re going to want to find out exactly which type you have.
“What stage is my cancer?”
“Stage” refers to how severe your cancer is or how far it has progressed. Stages of cancer are traditionally:
- Stage 0: You don’t currently have cancer, however, abnormal cells were found and they have the potential to cause cancer in the future.
- Stage 1: The cancer is small and isolated to just one area.
- Stage 2 & 3: The cancer is beginning to grow and spread to nearby tissue.
- Stage 4: Also known as advanced-stage cancer, this means that the cancer has spread to several areas of the body.
Unfortunately, this is a question that rarely has a straightforward answer. Cancer can be caused by a number of different things, including:
- Lifestyle factors. Someone who smokes cigarettes is nearly 20 times more likely to get lung cancer than someone who has never smoked.
- Environmental factors. High levels of air pollution are also believed to contribute to cancer rates.
- Genetics. Genetics play a major role in your risk of cancer. Even if you’re a healthy, active person, your familial history can still leave you susceptible to cancers that run in your family. Fortunately, advances in genetic testing have allowed us to identify certain cancer-causing genes, allowing us to better treat or prevent cancer.
Caring for Your Mental Health
While it’s easy to assume that everyone with cancer is depressed, that’s not actually the case. Yes, many people are sad when they’re first diagnosed. However, most people do not stay in that mindset throughout the course of their treatment. In fact, after a few weeks, many patients are determined and eager to fight.
Signs of Depression in Cancer Patients
It’s estimated that roughly 20% of cancer patients will become clinically depressed. If you’re experiencing any of the below symptoms, you should speak with your doctor or oncologist right away:
- Feeling perpetually hopeless.
- Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed and are still able to do.
- Sleeping too often or not at all.
- Not wanting to take care of yourself.
Understanding Your Treatment Options
Cancer care has come a long way over the years. While chemotherapy remains a popular treatment method, it’s far from the only one available. At Beverly Oncology, we provide the following treatments:
- Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy involves emitting X-ray energy to cancerous areas of the body. By attacking and changing unhealthy genes, radiation can prevent it from multiplying.
- Rotating Gamma Technology: The Rotating Gamma System® (RGS) Vertex360™ performs noninvasive brain surgery safely and effectively. This radiosurgery device has radioactive sources that rotate and circle the head during treatment, accurately targeting tumors and lesions while preserving the surrounding, healthy tissue.
- Brachytherapy: The direct, internal application of a small radiation source to the tissues via specialized catheters, which are placed in a natural cavity or the tumor itself.
Because how you feel is often not an indicator of how well the treatment is working (it’s not uncommon for people to feel worse as they actually get better), you should rely on your doctor to test your progress.
Whether through urine or blood samples, or digital imaging, your doctor can provide you with regular updates. When describing your progress, he or she may use the following terminology:
- Stable. Your cancer or tumor has stayed the same — not grown or shrunk.
- Partial remission. Your tumor has shrunk by at least 50%.
- Complete remission. Your cancer has become so small that it can’t be measured by any tests.
Beverly Oncology & Imaging offers state-of-the-art medical technology with greater convenience than hospitals can offer. We are leaders in our field, using cutting-edge technology like Rotating Gamma Technology™,External Beam therapy, and brachytherapy. Contact us today to discuss treatment options or to make an appointment.