10 questions to ask after being diagnosed with cancer

So many thoughts and questions run through your mind after doctors confirm a cancer diagnosis.
Was it discovered early enough? What is the survival rate? Will health insurance cover treatment costs? What happens if the cancer spreads? Where will I get my treatment?
This is an incredibly difficult period in a cancer patient’s life, so it’s important to focus on concerns that are within your control and stay positive. Technology has rapidly advanced in recent years, and when coupled with an early diagnosis and world-class physicians, the prognosis for a healthy future is much clearer and encouraging.
After you or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, keep these 10 questions top of mind when discussing treatments with a doctor:
(1) Where can I learn more about my type of cancer?
The internet is full of information about cancer. Unfortunately, it’s not all accurate. Consult websites of trustworthy organizations like the American Medical Association, American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Cancer Society and others focused on your specific type of cancer. Ask your physician for website links or printouts.
(2) What stage is the cancer?
The progression of cancer is often described in stages, with stage 4 being the most advanced or widespread, and stage 1 being the earliest or most localized. Knowing the stage helps prepare for what lies ahead with treatments, as this drives both treatment and the prognosis, and this information can usually be provided by your doctor.
(3) What are my treatment options?
Most types of cancer can be treated with a combination of radiation, surgery, chemotherapy or immunotherapy. No treatment plan is the same because no individual is the same. Proton therapy, an advanced and specialized type of radiation therapy, not currently an option in Southwest Florida, will be available starting in 2025 through Southwest Florida Proton.
(4) Why do many patients and doctors receive radiation therapy?
Radiation therapy, which uses non-invasive X-ray beams to kill or shrink cancer cells, is proven effective on many types of cancers, including breast, prostate, brain, rectal, skin, liver, brain, lung and others. Radiation therapy is carefully planned to focus on cancerous tissue and minimize exposure to nearby organs and healthy tissue.
(5) Can I receive my treatment close to home?
Advocate Radiation Oncology’s facilities are conveniently located close to home, and we are proud to have doctors that have trained at the top cancer centers in the country. This allows patients to stay close to their support system. Our physicians are experienced and collectively treat hundreds of cancer patients every day, and we work alongside the best specialists in the region to offer comprehensive cancer care services.
(6) How long do treatments take?
Because each treatment plan is specific to a patient, there is no general guide dictating the duration or number of cancer treatments. Some treatments can be completed in just a few quick sessions, while others can take several weeks of daily treatments.
(7) Should treatments start immediately?
It is important not to waste time after facing a new cancer diagnosis, and we understand that there is a sense of urgency to begin treatment. However, it is also important that all the relevant and appropriate testing is completed, and the correct treatment is employed the first time. Cancer care must be delivered in a multidisciplinary manner. This maximizes the chance of a positive outcome.
(8) What is the cost?
Most major insurance companies provide strong coverage for cancer treatments. Like any type of medical treatment, cancer patients sometimes can expect to see copays and/or deductibles. Cancer patients can reach the “out-of-pocket maximum” through their insurance plan, at which time the insurance company covers 100% of costs. The billing department of a medical office should handle all paperwork so patients can focus on their recovery, regardless of their financial situation.
(9) Should I change my diet?
Cancer treatments can take a toll on the human body. The negative health impacts can be minimized by consuming a healthy and well-balanced diet with good hydration. Avoid processed foods, or foods that are too high in sodium and/or excessive amounts of added sugars.
(10) Will exercise aid or impede recovery?
Fatigue is a common side effect of radiation and chemotherapy, but moderate exercise can offset the impact. Just 20 to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each day can help improve a patient’s health, psychological outlook and quality of life.
Throughout your cancer journey, a trusted physician and his or her team of medical professionals will become your biggest allies. They are there to help, so don’t hesitate to ask any and every question on your mind.
About the Author
Dr. Todd Pezzi is a board-certified radiation oncologist with Advocate Radiation Oncology and sees patients at the practice’s Bonita Springs and Naples cancer treatment centers. Visit AdvocateRO.com for more information.

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