Becoming a Proactive Cancer Patient
Experts explain what newly diagnosed cancer patients need to know to help fight their disease.
Talk to Other Patients
Gomez has had four surgeries to remove gastrointestinal tumors in the 10
years since her cancer was diagnosed, and she may face more in the future if
the tumors target her liver or grow big enough to block her intestines.
She now volunteers at a telephone hot line run by M.D. Anderson that matches
cancer patients with people who have had the same diagnosis or treatment.
"My cancer is so rare that I didn't meet another person who had it until
five years after my diagnosis," she says. "It was very, very
Gomez now talks to at least one person a week with her disease in her
volunteer role, and she believes this is one of the best things patients can do
to learn about their illness.
"The Internet is a great learning tool, but it can also scare you to
death," she says. "The statistics, especially, can be misleading. They
may tell you survival for your disease is less than five years, for example,
but if most people with your cancer are diagnosed in the 60s and 70s and you
are in your 30s, that may not apply to you."
Tools You Can Use
The M.D. Anderson hot line can be reached by calling (800) 345-6324. All
cancer patients or their caregivers are eligible to call. The Y-ME breast
cancer support hot line can be reached in English at (800) 221-2141 and in
Spanish at (800) 986-9505. Interpreters are also available in 150 other
The American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org) and the National Cancer
Institute (www.cancer.gov) both operate comprehensive web sites that include
information on cancer treatments and clinical trials, as does WebMD. The
information hot line number for ACS is (800) ACS-2345 and the number for NCI is
The ACS offers a service to patients and their families that will help match
them with clinical trials in their area. To find out about this service call
(800) 303-5691 or click on the section entitled Emerging Medical Clinical
Trials Matching Service on the ACS web site. You can find out about cancer
trials through the NCI at the web site www.clinicaltrials.gov.
The ACS web site also offers a service to help patients understand their
treatment options, says spokesman David Sampson. To access the service click on
"Using Treatment Decision Tools" on the group's home page.
Published Aug. 12, 2005.