House Call: Adjusting to a Cancer Diagnosis Pt. 1

Updated: Jun. 22, 2021 at 11:12 AM EDT
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June is National Cancer Survivorship Month and joining us is Megan Westfall, nurse navigator at the Cecil B. Highland Jr. and Barbara B. Highland Cancer Center at United Hospital Center.

1). If You Are Diagnosed with Cancer, How Do You Decide What Type of Cancer Treatment to Receive?

Your oncologist will provide you with treatment options based on national guidelines for your diagnosis and stage of cancer. The national guidelines are current recommendations for the prevention, diagnosis, and management of malignancies across the spectrum of cancer care. In collaboration with your oncologist, you will set forth a plan for your individual cancer care.

2). What Happens to My Health During Treatment?

Because chemotherapy kills both cancer and healthy cells, you may experience common side effects such as fatigue, anemia, hair loss, nausea, and diarrhea. Side effects can be managed by medications prescribed by your oncologist. Depending on the chemotherapy drug being used for your treatment, your doctor may order tests to get a baseline of your heart and lung functions as some chemotherapies can affect organ function. Your navigator is here to help you with any changes that you may experience, as well as assist you in communicating your needs to your doctor.

3). How Do I Tell Others About My Cancer?

Ultimately, it is up to you how you share your story, or even if you choose to tell people at all. You may want to start with close friends or family members to see how it feels to talk about it with people you trust.

Another option is setting up a website or social media page that people can refer to and get the story of your journey, see updates, and/or donate money for medical expenses. By having a central location for information it will take the weight off you for having to continuously repeat your story to everyone you see.

However, when it comes to telling children, it is best to individualize the conversation based their age, and on what they might already know or think, they know about cancer. Your navigator can help assist you in finding age appropriate books for children to read about cancer and help them understand at their level what it means to know someone with cancer.

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