"Cancer" may be the most frightening word in medicine. Life changes
suddenly and profoundly after a cancer diagnosis. Initial shock gives way to a
realization of the tremendous physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges
that lie ahead.
Beyond the emotional turmoil that accompanies a cancer diagnosis, patients
face a practical necessity: to develop a plan to live with and fight
For more information, U.S. residents may call the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) Cancer Information Service toll-free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Time. A trained Cancer Information Specialist is available to answer your questions.
The NCI's LiveHelp® online chat service provides Internet users with the ability to chat online with an Information Specialist. The...
A cancer diagnosis is likely to feel overwhelming. But resources are
available to support you every step of the way. WebMD can help you get started
on the journey.
After a Cancer Diagnosis: Time to Take Control
People often enter a "shock phase" after a cancer diagnosis, says
Joy Fincannon, RN, MS, clinical nurse specialist in psychiatric nursing with
the American Cancer Society. Such an initial reaction is perfectly normal.
“But then, you’ve got to take control of the situation,” says Dave Visel,
author of Living With Cancer. Many things will be outside your control,
but “strive to control the things you can.”
Here are important steps you can take to manage your life after a cancer
Find a partner. “No one should go through a fight against cancer
alone,” says Visel. For many people this will be a spouse, family member or
close friend. Pick someone you can talk to openly about serious issues.
Get organized. Start a notebook or binder to coordinate appointments,
doctors’ phone numbers, and the information you collect along the way. Take it
with you to each medical appointment, and keep notes on your test results and
treatment options. Start a running list of questions to ask your doctor on your
Get informed. Take steps to learn more about your cancer diagnosis and
treatment options -- but do so at a pace that is comfortable for you. “For some
people, a lot of information is exactly what they need,” says Katherine
DuHamel, PhD, health psychologist with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
in New York. “Others might not want too much right away.”
Be sure to consult only unbiased, trustworthy sources when you do your
research. Begin with the web sites for the American Cancer Society and the
National Cancer Institute.
Consider a second opinion. Cancer treatment is complicated, and different
doctors are likely to have different philosophies and approaches. A second
opinion can also help you feel more confident in your treatment plan. Some
insurance companies require a second opinion. The R. A. Bloch Cancer Foundation
provides a list of second-opinion centers free of charge. For the closest
center to you, call 800-433-0464.
After a Cancer Diagnosis: Taking a 'Whole Life' Approach
A cancer diagnosis touches every area of your life, so your plans for
managing after your cancer diagnosis should do so as well.
Take an active role in medical and treatment decisions. Given the complexity
of cancer treatment, you may feel you should take a back seat to your doctors.
But according to Michael Fisch, MD, gastrointestinal oncologist at M.D.
Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, patients and families should “realize early
in the process that they are crucial members of their own health care