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A Cancer Diagnosis: What Happens Next?

A Cancer Diagnosis: What Happens Next?

How did this happen? Where do I go for treatment? What are the side effects? How much will it cost? Can I continue to work? What role will my family and friends play? Is this the right treatment plan for me? Will my insurance cover the costs? Why me?

Now what?

These are questions every patient with a new cancer diagnosis will ask. Frederick Regional Health System (FRHS) believes every patient should take an active role in their healthcare, especially after a cancer diagnosis. Without education, it’s hard to make treatment decisions (or to be sure you’re making the right ones) that are best for you or your loved ones. Before starting any treatment, consider the following important steps to take control of your life after a cancer diagnosis.

Get a Second Opinion

Sometimes diagnosing cancers can be challenging, the diagnosis is unclear, or the outlook uncertain. It’s normal to wonder if another doctor could do more or recommend a different treatment option for you. That’s why second opinions are so important before any cancer treatment begins. A second opinion can help you feel better about your diagnosis and treatment plan. Many health insurance plans even require a second opinion before covering some treatment costs.

FRHS is Maryland’s only certified member of the MD Anderson Cancer Network, one of the world’s most respected healthcare networks focused on cancer, patient care, research, education, and prevention. What does this mean for you? As a certified member, our team has access to the latest and greatest cancer treatment options, leading-edge research from across the nation, evidence-based guidelines and best practices, and second opinions from nationally recognized physicians who are also certified by the network.

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and have seen a cancer specialist, a second opinion allows you to review your options with another expert. At the Second Opinion Clinic, our MD Anderson certified physicians are ready to give you a better understanding of your diagnosis, the best options for your diagnosis, and guidance along your journey. They’ll offer recommendations, treatment pathways, guidelines, and peer-to-peer consultations with other MD Anderson faculty to discuss your specific type of cancer. If their diagnosis or treatment plan differs from what you originally received, they’ll explain why and give you the freedom and control to decide which options work best for you.

(Click here to learn more about second opinions at FRHS).

Ask Your Oncologist or Healthcare Team

The needs of every newly diagnosed patient and their families are different. Some want to learn everything about their cancer, while others only want the basics. Some feel anxious if they have too much information, while others are stressed if they don’t have enough. No matter your preference, asking your healthcare team the right questions about your specific cancer and treatment will help you manage your care.

A good oncology team will listen to your concerns, explain what’s happening in terms you can understand, and empathize with you and your unique needs. Before your initial appointment, grab a notebook and start writing down questions to ask your doctor on your visit. Bring a friend or family member to ask additional questions or take notes as you discuss the situation with your doctor. If you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to speak up and tell your doctor. Medical vocabulary can be challenging, especially when you feel anxious or scared.

For newly diagnosed cancer patients, consider the basics:

  • What type of cancer do I have? What is my exact diagnosis and stage of cancer?
  • Where is my cancer located? Has it spread?
  • What is my prognosis (best estimate of how my disease will respond to treatment)? What is my life expectancy?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • Which treatment do you recommend and why?
  • What possible risks or side effects can I expect with each treatment option? How can I manage them?
  • How often will I need treatments? How long will they last?
  • How can I prepare for my procedures?
  • How will treatment affect my daily life? Can I continue to work, exercise, care for my kids, etc.?
  • What about clinical trials? Am I eligible to join any?
  • What integrative or complementary medicine services do you recommend in addition to my treatment?
  • What are support services available to my family and me?
  • Are other family members at risk? What screenings, if any, should they have?
  • Who can help me pay for my treatment and handle health insurance concerns?
  • What resources do you recommend to learn more about my disease?

The Costs

Cancer treatment involves many sophisticated technologies, machinery, and medicine, which is why it can be very expensive. Some treatments require hospital stays, and some health insurance and managed care plans won’t cover all the costs. Add in travel and lodging expenses, if needed, and the costs can add up pretty quickly. Ultimately, it becomes your responsibility, as the patient or loved one of a patient, to cover these payments.

Did you know we offer financial counseling and referral assistance to cancer patients through the James M Stockman Cancer Institute? We can help you apply for financial programs to cover medical expenses, including Medical Assistance, Social Security benefits, and COBRA. Contact Irene Hollis, financial counselor, at 240-566-4337 or for details.

Don’t Navigate It Alone

Your cancer treatment isn’t just about the medical equipment or care provided to treat your disease. No one should ever have to fight cancer alone. Throughout your journey, you should have a quality team of professional, caring folks to connect you and your loved ones to additional resources and support. These cheerleading champions should be in your corner, helping to guide you every step of the way.

At FRHS, we offer:

Every cancer patient works with a nurse navigator, or a medical professional who serves as a guide for all newly diagnosed patients. They not only educate patients about their cancer and treatment options, they also help to coordinate care. Our nurse navigators have two common goals: to help ease anxiety and to eliminate barriers to care. They’re here to make sure your medical, emotional, and logistical needs are met. Call 240-566-4100 to speak with a nurse navigator today.

Cancer may be one of the most frightening words in modern healthcare, and a cancer diagnosis is likely to feel overwhelming to you and your loved ones. But there are resources and support available to you. Visit the James M Stockman Cancer Institute where we will be fully prepared to help answer any questions or concerns you may have and/or provide a second opinion.