Steps to Take After a Cancer Diagnosis
- Cancer & Caregiving
- April 24, 2014
One of the most common questions we receive from patients here at Asbestos.com is, “What do I do once I’ve (or my loved one has) been diagnosed with mesothelioma?”
Although the answer varies because each person’s case is different, we created a five-step outline for any patient or loved one on how to proceed after a cancer diagnosis.
Step 1: Confirm the Diagnosis
Because of the rarity of the disease and the limited number of specialists that study this cancer, you may want to seek the advice of another doctor – a mesothelioma specialist. A second opinion from a specialist may reveal an entirely different condition or clarify factors that could be crucial during treatment. If your physician has not performed a tissue biopsy, request one. A sample of the cancerous tissue can help definitively diagnose this cancer, explain the cell type and detail what stage of cancer you are facing.
This is the most critical step in maximizing your treatment potential. Due to the rarity of asbestos cancer, most doctors and cancer centers are not experienced in the latest treatment options available. There are select centers around the country that specialize in the various types and stages of mesothelioma treatment.
Step 2: Learn about Mesothelioma
Understanding your condition is central to evaluating options with doctors and choosing the best course of treatment. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Symptoms of the disease vary and depend on the type of disease. A prognosis is typically unfavorable, although treatments and therapies are available.
Various cancer organizations around the country – such as the National Cancer Institute – offer information on this rare cancer. Many organizations offer information conveniently online.
To learn more about mesothelioma, select a topic:
Step 3: Establish a Course of Treatment
If you want to alleviate pain and symptoms through palliative treatment or combat the cancer with curative therapies, treatment options are available. What many patients find difficult is selecting a doctor qualified to treat them.
The three most commonly used treatments for mesothelioma are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Recovery from these can take weeks or months, but patients often experience improvement in their quality of life. Alternative therapies such as diet changes, meditation and yoga have also been shown to benefit patients.
Step 4: Identify Valuable Resources for Assistance
Travel grants, free airfare, complementary housing and even free treatment are all possible for patients. Our Patient and Family Advocates have helped many families understand their options, including access to financial assistance for treatment. We also help veterans with their VA Claims through our Veterans Assistance Department.
Step 5: Create a Support Network
Receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis can present many challenges. There will be a number of everyday tasks that you can’t perform – or won’t want to. One of the most common symptoms of mesothelioma is fatigue. Driving to doctor visits, cooking meals and carrying out other routine tasks may become more difficult depending on your type and stage of mesothelioma.
Lean on your family and close friends. They represent your chief sources of support, physically and emotionally. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. The American Cancer Society also offers support options for patients diagnosed with cancer.
Tim Povtak is an award-winning writer with more than 30 years of reporting national and international news. His specialty is interviewing top mesothelioma specialists and researchers, reporting the latest news at mesothelioma cancer centers and talking with survivors and caregivers.
- Pass, I., Vogelzang, N., Carbone, M. (2005). Malignant Mesothelioma: Advances in Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Transitional Therapies. New York: Springer.
- Baldi, A. (2008). Mesothelioma from Bench Side to Clinic. New York: Nova Science Publishers.