them, especially if he or she doesn’t specialize
in your cancer, Meehan says. That’s why you
should seek a second opinion, particularly if
you have a rare, advanced or aggressive form
of cancer. “Look for a specialist who works
regularly with that type of cancer,” Meehan
says, adding that some insurance companies
may even require a second opinion before
you can start treatment.
Get your family involved. If you haven’t
dug deep into your family’s health history,
now’s the time to do it. “Find out where your
cancer originated so you know what might be
coming down the road for you and so you can
inform family members about their potential
risk,” Ross says.
After Ross was diagnosed, her dermatologist recommended genetic testing, especially
since she’d lost her sister to breast cancer and
had numerous other family members who
were diagnosed with cancer. Although she
thought her cancer originated on her father’s
side, it actually came from her mother, and she
then informed as many of her mother’s relatives as she could. Ross went on to have protective surgeries, including a mastectomy, to
reduce her risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Inquire about clinical trials. Not all types
of cancer or every patient is eligible for clinical trials, but it doesn’t hurt to ask your specialist. “If there is a study or clinical trial
which you qualify for, you might gain access
to newer, more advanced treatment,” says
Meehan, who also notes that many of the trials cover the cost of often-expensive drugs.
Take a mental break. As crazy as it might
sound, letting go of the idea that she had melanoma helped Ross deal with things better.
“It’s unhealthy to think about your diagnosis
all the time, which is why I recommend not
thinking about your cancer except when
there’s a reason to,” she says.
And don’t think that, because you have
cancer, you can’t continue to do your favorite
things. One of Ross’ patients continued her
running routine, even when she was going
through chemotherapy for breast cancer.
These strategies, of course, are just a
starting point. As you go through your journey, you’ll likely discover or develop other
means of working through this very challenging and emotional time. C
Karen Asp is an Indiana-based journalist.
• What kind of cancer do I have?
• Where is the cancer?
• Has it spread?
• Can my cancer be treated?
• What is the chance that my cancer
can be cured?
• What other tests or procedures
do I need?
• What can I expect during
• What are the side effects of the
• What can I do to prevent my can-
cer from recurring?
• How likely are my children or other
family members to get cancer?—KA
QUESTIONS TO ASK
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