"You have cancer." Nearly 1.7 million Americans receive this chilling diagnosis each year. Cancer kills one in four Americans. It's the second-most-common cause of death. (No. 1 is heart disease.)
And on top of the fear, a cancer diagnosis often leaves patients feeling bewildered. Your doctor will flood you with a textbook's worth of information... and an online search often prompts more questions than answers. So here are the four most important steps to take immediately after a cancer diagnosis...
1. Take a breath. Take a walk. Take a step back. Cancer is a serious life event, but you don't need to make a decision minutes after hearing the news. Here at Health & Wealth Bulletin, our manifesto is to provide a guide for living well... at a good price... and on your own terms. Never let a doctor bully you into a treatment that isn't right for your own personal situation.
2. Confirm your diagnosis. Maybe twice. Go out and get a second, or even third, opinion. Doctors make mistakes like everyone else. Don't put yourself through dangerous treatments – like radiation and chemotherapy – without the certainty that you have cancer. I have three close friends who were misdiagnosed and mistreated for cancer, and the outcomes were horrifying.
3. Wait for tissue pathology. If you have a "solid cancer," like breast cancer, waiting for the pathology to determine your cancer type is critical to determine appropriate treatment. However, this may not apply if you have a blood disorder like acute leukemia, which often requires urgent treatment.
4. Research, research, and research some more. Find out what your treatment options are, which hospitals lead the field in the cancer you have, and how to join potential trials. One place you can start your research is the National Cancer Institute...
Its website (cancer.gov) can provide you with information on your specific cancer type and any current research in the field. Every type of cancer has specific treatment options. You must discuss with your doctor whether surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, or a combination of those treatments is the best option for you.