Been Diagnosed with Cancer? Here’s What to Do
From the moment you find out that you have cancer, it can seem like your whole life has shifted. Where do you go from here? While there’s no roadmap for navigating through your cancer journey, these next steps can put you on the path toward getting answers and taking action.
Learn more about your diagnosis. There are many types of cancers, and they grow and act differently in the body. What all cancers have in common, however, is that they start as cells that grow and multiply uncontrollably. Eventually, they start to affect the area of the body where they began. They can also spread and cause problems in other parts of the body. Talk with your healthcare provider about your diagnosis. Find out exactly what type of cancer you have, where it’s located, whether it has spread anywhere else, what stage it is, and exactly what that means.
Ask lots of questions. You should feel like you can always ask your healthcare provider anything. Being able to comfortably talk with your provider is essential for receiving good cancer care. You’ll be making lots of choices throughout your cancer treatment journey. Having plenty of information about your cancer and your treatment options will help guide your decisions. Some important questions include:
What are my treatment options?
What are the risks and benefits of each of those treatments?
When do I need to start treatment?
How long will treatment take?
How will the treatments make me feel?
What side effects will I experience?
What can I do to help manage those side effects?
Can I continue to work while undergoing treatment?
Talk with your loved ones. Sharing the news that you have cancer may be daunting. Being open and honest with your family about your disease and how you’re feeling will make a big difference. Let your family know what they can expect. If you have children, it’s important that they feel they can always come to you with their questions. Being direct and truthful is better than letting them imagine the worst.
Take care of yourself. Carving out time to take care of yourself will help support you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Some key self-care tips include:
Getting plenty of rest. You may feel more tired than usual, even after treatment. Go easy on yourself, and take breaks when you need to.
Eating well. Your body needs plenty of calories and protein during this time. Work with your healthcare provider or a dietitian to learn which foods are best for you.
Exercising. As long as your provider says it’s OK, being physically active can help you feel less stressed and tired and may improve your appetite.