If you are living with cancer, an oncologist has cared for you at some point. This is a cancer specialist who helps diagnose and treat the disease. Three types of oncologists may be involved in your treatment. A medical oncologist works to eliminate your cancer using drugs; surgical oncologists operate on your body to remove tumors; and radiation oncologists use radiotherapy to target and destroy cancer cells. Your partnership with these doctors is a key part of your treatment journey. Talking to them openly and honestly helps you get the best possible treatment. Here’s what oncologists want their patients to know about facing cancer together.
What's an Oncologist? https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F69%2F86%2Fddbe9ae14ed6b7dd309f715fb614%2Fimage-getty-513447945.jpg
"So many patients with cancer ask 'Why did I get this?' or want to blame their behaviors or environment," says Elizabeth R. Plimack, MD, an associate professor in the department of hematology/oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. "But it's usually not your fault or anything you did. Even though cancer can be genetic and caused by smoking and viruses, most cancers are random."
1. "Most cancers are random." https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/crop/5117x3423%2B9%2B0/resize/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F08%2Ffc%2Fc6f6f66c4ca7ae41da09c499a59c%2Fimage-getty-470621787.jpg
Don't go into your appointment with any preconceived notions about treatment or its side effects, like vomiting or compromised immunity. "Your experience will be so different than that of your friends or family who were treated 10 to 15 years ago," Dr. Plimack says. "We give chemotherapy so much more easily now that we have good anti-nausea drugs and good medicines to boost the immune system."
2. "Cancer treatment is a lot different than a decade ago." https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2Fbd%2Fc2%2Fd2edaaff451e9f1253cc61baa337%2Fresizes%2F1500%2Fimage-getty-177259702.jpg
Bring a family member or a close friend with you to all your appointments, starting with the first one. It's especially important to bring this person to any visits that involve reviewing scans or test results. "You're probably only going to catch about 30% of the information that the doctor or team tells you," says Philippe E. Spiess, MD, a genitourinary oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla. The more people you can bring to the key visits the better, adds Dr. Plimack, who says this makes it easier for the whole family to hear any tough news straight from the doctor.
3. "Always bring a second set of ears with you." https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F4b%2F37%2Fc60761a34ef3bb70210cdec38811%2Fimage-getty-466350544.jpg
Gather your questions ahead of time and come in with a pen and paper. "Often times people come into my clinic and they feel nervous, they feel rushed, and they forget things," says Dale R. Shepard, MD, a director at Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center. "It is much easier to create a checklist ahead of time than to call with each question as you think of it." Use the notebook as a diary to track things like symptoms or concerns. Bring it with you to each doctor's appointment. The person who came with you to your appointment can also use it to take any notes during your checkup.
4. "Carry a notebook." https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/crop/5119x3424%2B0%2B0/resize/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2Fed%2F2e%2Ff52d6d7a4fe7b032699bcffa0824%2Fimage-getty-507831749.jpg
Curable means you will have some type of treatment and are expected to be cancer-free when it is completed. Controllable means the cancer does not go away but doctors will try to manage symptoms and make you live longer. "Sometimes the