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7 Things Every Patient Should Know About Cancer Care

Most patients who are diagnosed with cancer get the basics of their diagnosis and treatment plan from their doctors. But there’s more to know about successfully navigating the disease, and often it can be tough to figure out where to start.

The following seven pieces of advice can help you make some of the most important decisions before, during, and after your care.

1. Be choosy about where you get cancer care. Cancer treatment isn’t one-size-fits-all. When you go to a dedicated cancer care facility, you’ll gain access to experts who specialize in your specific disease and are up to date on the latest treatment options. In fact, research shows that patients who start their care at a dedicated cancer center have higher rates of survival.

2. Use trusted sources of information. The internet has valuable information that can make a positive difference, but it’s easy to stumble onto something that’s misleading or even inaccurate. If you decide to research your cancer online, stick with credible sources like government agencies, major health organizations, and leading hospitals. Also, ask your treatment team for reliable information sources online and also seek out resources at your treatment center. Fox Chase has a Resource and Education Center where patients can get trusted information.

3. Get a second opinion. It’s understandable to want to start treatment as soon as possible. But taking some time to seek a second opinion can help set you up for treatment success. Consulting with another expert can confirm important details about your diagnosis. You’ll also get another chance to review your treatment plan and to see if other options, like a clinical trial, might be available. In urgent cases, you may be able to get a second opinion within 24 hours of asking for one.

4. Consider participating in a clinical trial. These cutting-edge studies have the potential to offer life-saving benefits. But they aren’t just for patients who’ve exhausted all of their other treatment options. Clinical trials are open to patients in almost every situation, including those with early-stage cancer.

5. Seek out a cancer center known for good nursing care. You’ll spend more time with your nurses than any other member of your care team. So it’s worth seeking out a care center with a highly qualified nursing staff. Fox Chase Cancer Center is among the select group of hospitals nationwide to achieve Magnet status, which is regarded as the highest recognition in nursing excellence. Magnet-designated facilities are known for their top-quality patient care and score high in key areas like patient satisfaction and low rates of hospital-acquired infections. And, it’s even rarer for a hospital to maintain Magnet designation five consecutive times, as Fox Chase has since 2000.

6. Let go of the past. It’s easy to beat yourself up over things you did or didn’t do regarding how you got sick or the decisions you made about your treatment. But allowing yourself to get swallowed up by guilt or regret makes it harder to enjoy the good things happening in your life right now.

“It uses up a lot of energy but it doesn’t move things forward,” said Paula H. Finestone, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Fox Chase.

Her advice? Do what you can today to care for yourself. Stop blaming yourself for things you can’t change.

7. Be your own best advocate. You are one of the most important members of your cancer care team. Communicating your concerns, hopes, and questions effectively to your treatment team is crucial.

Whether you are just beginning your cancer journey or in the midst of it, it is important to feel supported. Reach out to your care team if you have questions and advocate for yourself!