I Have Cancer, Now What?


10 Tips for Dealing With a Cancer Diagnosis

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you’re not alone. Half of all men and a third of all women in the United States will be diagnosed with the disease at some point. While no one is ever prepared for a cancer diagnosis, following these tips can help you learn more about your diagnosis, choose the right treatment, and find your way forward to better health.

1. Take a deep breath.

Allow yourself time to take in the news. Don’t panic. Most cancers grow slowly, and it’s likely that you don’t need to act immediately.

2. Learn the details of your diagnosis.

Cancer isn’t one disease — it’s a group of more than 200 different diseases. Ask your doctor about your cancer type, its location and stage, where it started and whether it has (or is likely to) spread.

3. Find a cancer center designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Roswell Park is one of only 51 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers — a recognition that reflects scientific expertise in cancer research and the ability to offer cutting-edge treatments. Patients treated at these centers have higher overall survival (the length of time from either the date of diagnosis or the start of treatment that patients are still alive) than those treated at community hospitals. In some cancers, overall survival in patients treated at NCI-designated centers is up to twice as high as those treated elsewhere.

4. Bring someone along to your appointment.

A supportive friend or family member can help listen, take notes, or ask questions for you.

5. Evaluate your options.

Some cancers need just one type of therapy, while others are best treated with a combination of approaches. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially if there’s something you don’t understand. Which leads us to…

6. Ask questions.

Be as informed about your diagnosis as you can be. Knowing the right questions to ask before you begin treatment is important.

Questions to ask your cancer care provider include:

  • Can my cancer be cured?
  • What are the best treatment options for my cancer?
  • What is the goal of this treatment?
  • How long will treatment take?
  • Will I be able to continue working?
  • What side effects are expected, and how will they be managed?
  • What are your outcomes for treating this type of cancer?
  • What options are available if I choose not to have this treatment?

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7. Consider a second opinion.

Talking to another doctor about your condition can help you confirm the diagnosis, learn more about your cancer or find a different approach to therapy.

8. Find support.

Seek and accept support from family, friends, others with cancer, and community resources to help manage any emotional, practical or financial issues that arise during treatment.

9. Focus on what you can control and let go of what you can't.

A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming at times. It's important to remember that some things are out of your control. Focusing on the things you can influence and change can help you feel better about your situation.

10. Take care of yourself.

Exercise, eat well, stay hydrated, and get plenty of sleep, as this will help you stay stronger both mentally and physically during treatment.