Start Strong and Informed With Good Communication
All cancers are different, and although there is a lot of general information at your fingertips, your doctor will be your best resource as you begin treatment. Kidney cancer can affect patients differently, and your unique case will call for personalized treatment. Ask specific questions from the very beginning to stay on top of your current health, your prognosis, and how you can help yourself and your treatment as you move forward.
Get to Know Your Diagnosis
A cancer diagnosis is hard to bear, but it can also be difficult to understand. Take the time to ask your doctor about the details that led them to the diagnosis, and what it means for you now and in the near future.
- Staging. This step involves testing to determine the size of the tumor, its placement in the kidney, and whether it has spread to other areas of the body. Ask your doctor what stage the cancer is in, and what that means in terms of tumor size, symptoms and treatment.
- Testing. Ask your doctor about the tests you will need to take, and how often these will be given. If you have any questions or concerns about the type of machines and tools they will require, let your doctor know now.
- Second opinions. Don’t be afraid to express your desire for a second opinion – doctors won’t take it personally. In fact, your doctor may refer you to other specialists at a different center that will work together as a team to give you the most accurate diagnosis and the most promising treatment plan.
- Your doctor’s experience. Oncologists are experts in cancer and its treatment, but that doesn’t mean every doctor has worked with every type of cancer. Ask your doctor how many similar cases they have treated, and what their success rate has been.
Ask About Treatment
It’s not uncommon for an oncologist to consider a couple different approaches, but their final recommendation for treatment is based on their expertise and close observation. To understand how they arrived at their decision, ask questions like:
- What other treatment choices do I have? Why is this the best option?
- What is the goal of this treatment?
- When will treatment begin? How long will it last?
- What are the side effects, and when should I expect to notice them?
- How should I prepare for treatment? What lifestyle changes are the most important?
- How long will it take me to recover from treatment? Is a full recovery possible?
- Am I eligible for any clinical trials?
A cancer diagnosis can spark an emotional and psychological struggle, which can interfere with your thinking and your logical responses. Take time to write down your questions and concerns as they come to you, and keep the record with you. Feel free to call or visit your doctor with your list, and ask them to write important points down so you won’t forget them. Lean on your friends and family for help keeping everything organized – a strong support network will keep you informed and confident as you move ahead.