What is cancer?
Cancer is, in a simple definition, the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Although there are many different types, if left untreated some cancers can cause serious illness and even death.
How is cancer treated?
The choices for you are based upon the type of cancer, the stage (note: Stage is a measure, from one to four, of the size and extent of cancer. A stage of 1 indicates little or no spreading, while a higher stage reflects cancer that has metastasized, or spread, to distant areas of the body.) of cancer, and other individual factors such as your age, health status, and personal preferences. You need to discuss your treatment options with the cancer care team and understand the available treatment. The four major types of treatments are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and biologic therapies. Before starting treatment, ask about the goal of treatment. Is the purpose of the treatment to cure the cancer, control it, or treat symptoms?
Your healthcare team
During the course of treatment, you will receive treatment and consultation from a team of health care professionals that may consist of one or more of the following: surgeon, radiation oncologist, social worker, hematologist/oncologist, oncology nurses, nurse practitioner, nutritionist, physical therapist and psychologist.
Should I get a second opinion?
Getting a second opinion is a commonly accepted practice; do not be afraid, it's an opportunity to help you make a better decision about your healthcare.
You are a very important member of your own cancer care team. Don't be afraid to ask as many questions as you may have. Write your questions down between visits to your health professional so that you are sure to remember them and get the answers you need. Some people create a folder or portfolio that includes insurance records, health records, notes and questions, appointments and treatment schedules and any other information they may need so that it's available and easily carried with you.