5 Things You Should Do if You are Diagnosed with Cancer

(BPT) - By Yang Liu, MD, Minnesota Oncology physician

Most of my patients just diagnosed with cancer simply don’t know where to start and what to do. They come from all walks of life and many are smart, highly successful individuals. But facing a cancer diagnosis is not like anything they have faced before. It’s monumental, life-altering. They feel overwhelmed and their world has seemingly spun completely out of control. One of our goals at Minnesota Oncology is to help people with cancer and their loved ones become empowered because with that feeling of empowerment comes a feeling of control and a reduction in anxiety.

If you, or a loved one, are newly diagnosed, following the steps below can make a tremendous difference as you begin your cancer journey:

1. Ask your doctor how much time you have to make a decision and begin treatment. Our natural instinct is to take immediate action, to do something and do it now. This is sometimes necessary, but often is not. I urge all recently diagnosed people to ask their doctor how much time they have to make a decision and begin treatment. In most cases, you have some time to do more research, get a second opinion and even consult with a decision counseling expert to discuss your options, personal goals and wishes.

2. Write down your questions and concerns in advance of your appointment and bring the questions to your appointment. Think about what it is you want the health care team to know about you personally and your goals as you explore treatment options together. I enjoy getting to know my patients and learning more about their lifestyles and their goals. I care deeply about my patients and consider it an absolute privilege to walk alongside them and their families in their cancer journey.

3. Bring a family member or friend with you to medical appointments to listen, take notes, ask questions, and help you to talk through the information after the appointment. Even with COVID restrictions in most clinics, family members can be present in various ways. At Minnesota Oncology, we welcome one family member or caregiver at the initial consultation, and we encourage them to join by phone or FaceTime for future in-person appointments or to sit in on telemedicine appointments.

4. Become informed about your treatment options and goals of care.

Some questions to ask: Are there multiple treatments available? If so, what are the different treatment options? What are the goals of treatment? Can my cancer be cured or are we treating it with other goals in mind?

5. Get a second opinion. Every patient has a right to a second — or even third — opinion, and your doctor should support your desire to do so. Oftentimes people seek a second opinion from a doctor in a different cancer center or academic medical center in order to explore all care options and to see if there is any new science they should know about. At Minnesota Oncology, we are available to provide second opinions, with appointments offered within 48 hours of your call.