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Cancer Health Center

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How to Find the Best Cancer Treatment

Get answers to 10 commonly asked questions about clinical trials, where to get cancer treatment, and more.

What is my prognosis? What are my odds of survival? Am I going to die? continued...

But ultimately, a prognosis is just a number. "Prognosis is an art, not a science," Lichtenfeld says.

"You're never going to find what you're looking for when you try to find out your chances of survival with a particular cancer," Saltz says. "You're not going to find the one paper that says, 'Don't worry, I have all the answers and if you do this, everything will be OK.' No matter what, you'll find numbers that will be upsetting. If it isn't a 100% chance of cure, it won't make you happy -- and with cancer, that's virtually never the case. I try to avoid numbers and prognoses and focus on a plan for treatment."

Should I use an herbal remedy that I've heard about to help with my cancer treatment? It's natural, so it can't do any harm, right?

Never use an herbal or botanical remedy, or other "natural" supplement, while undergoing cancer treatment without talking to your doctor. Just because something is natural doesn't mean it has no side effects, and some herbs and botanical remedies have been documented to have negative interactions with cancer treatments. For example, St. John's wort, often taken for depression, can reduce the effectiveness of certain chemotherapy drugs. Many herbs and supplements can also interfere with normal clotting, which means they shouldn't be taken if you're soon to undergo surgery.

It's not that complementary medicine is off limits. In fact, some complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, have been embraced for cancer patients. But the rule of thumb is to tell your doctor about anything and everything you're doing in response to your cancer, whether it requires a prescription or not.

Besides my surgeon and oncologists, who should be on my cancer care team?

One very important set of people who will definitely be on your team are the oncology nurses. These are the people who will spend the most time with you, who will actually administer your chemotherapy (if you get it), and who will monitor your side effects and answer a lot of your questions. Get to know your nurses. "They're your first line of defense," Lichtenfeld says.

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