You’ve just been diagnosed with cancer, and your mind is reeling. As you try to process the information, the doctor brings up the need to look at cancer treatment options and decide on a plan.
Decisions about cancer treatment are made more difficult by fear and anxiety, so how do you decide on a plan? Here is a guide to help you make your choice.
Establish some ground rules before discussing with your doctor and family. Be vocal about wanting to know all the treatment types and your chances of survival. Be clear about who will make the treatment decisions — will you rely solely on your doctor, or do wish to have input in the matter?
The doctor will give you estimates on what you can expect from each type of treatment. Some options will likely have side effects, and treatments to these side effects may require you to visit other doctors. For example, you might have to travel to and from Los Angeles and Long Beach to see a neurotherapy doctor as part of your chemotherapy treatment. Communicate with your doctor what side effects you’re willing to tolerate.
Determine a Goal
Identifying what you want out of your cancer treatment helps you narrow your choices. Depending on the type and stage of your cancer, the goals for treatment might be:
- Cure: If the cancer is in its early stages and if a cure is possible, you might be willing to endure short-term side effects.
- Control: If the cancer is at a later stage or if previous treatments have failed, you might want a treatment that will shrink or stop your cancer from growing temporarily.
- Comfort: If the cancer has not responded to treatments or is in its advanced stage, you might want to focus on minimizing the pain instead.
Find Out More about Your Treatment Options
Ask your doctor about reliable websites and patient education materials to make a rational treatment decision. When researching, keep in mind your type of cancer, its stage, available treatment options, and the chances of the treatments working under certain circumstances. Get a second opinion from a doctor in another hospital for confirmation.
Weigh the Pros and Cons
Assess each treatment plan based on the benefits and risks of each. Some factors to consider include:
- The side effects of each treatment and whether you can handle them
- The likelihood of the cancer coming back after treatment
- The impact of each treatment on your daily life
- The financial aspects of the treatment and whether your insurance covers it
- Other health conditions
You don’t have to decide on a treatment plan and stick with it. There may be times when you might change your mind, and that’s fine.
Although a cancer diagnosis might make you feel like it is imperative to immediately decide on a treatment plan, some situations require more time to think. Ask your doctor how much time you have to decide on a treatment plan. Being involved in your wellness gives you peace of mind and lets you focus on keeping healthy and positive throughout your chosen path.