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How to Handle the First Diagnosis

What To Do First

The first shock was the cancer diagnosis. Now you've been told you, or someone you care about, needs chemotherapy, radiation therapy or both.

For some people, the thought of undergoing such a demanding form of cancer therapy is as frightening as the cancer itself. It's understandable if you are feeling overwhelmed. There is a great deal of new information and medical jargon to comprehend as well as major decisions to be made. Where do you begin?

Dealing with the News

First, give yourself permission to work through your emotions. It's not unusual to feel shock or denial; it may take a few days, or even longer, to accept that this is actually happening.

Many patients experience feelings of panic, fear, or anger. Others become emotionally numb and very focused on the practical tasks at hand. Often, the hardest thing is feeling like you've lost control over your life. Whatever you're feeling, it's healthy to express your emotions to people who can be supportive.

Taking Care of Yourself

Try to keep a positive attitude. It will help you explore treatment options and make wise treatment choices.

Continue to participate in activities that you enjoy, things that you find relaxing and fun. Anything that reduces your stress levels and helps you feel calmer and stronger emotionally will benefit you throughout your treatment experience. Some patients find books or tapes about coping or relaxation helpful. Some practice relaxation techniques such as massage, meditation, or hypnosis. Still others find comfort in prayer or spiritual meditation.

Remember that you are in training for a medical marathon. Keeping your mind and spirit strong will help your body heal.

Discovering you have cancer can be confusing and upsetting. Important decisions must be made, yet patients and caregivers often feel overwhelmed. One way to overcome this situation is to learn about your disease, treatment options, and the medical experts who are best qualified to treat your particular type of cancer.

More than half of the patients with cancer today will be cured, but getting the proper treatment early is key. In most cases, decisions do not need to be made within a day or two of finding out you have cancer, and taking time to determine the best course of treatment will not affect the outcome of your disease. Your first step should be to find the right cancer specialist and treatment facility. However, many newly diagnosed people with cancer do not know where to begin their search.

Our physicians are specialists in the many different types of cancer. When you call, our referral staff will help you make an appointment with the right physician for your specific situation.

We will ask for information about the diagnosis, any treatment to date, and other important details. This will help the referral specialists and oncology nurses at our Center determine how best to help you.

Wait times for appointments vary. When you call, the referral specialist will discuss timing with you. Our goal is to match you with the best physician for your particular medical condition.

We understand how anxious you may feel and will do our very best to respond to your needs as quickly as possible.

What to Expect

We understand cancer and the effects it can have on your state of mind as well as your body. It's normal to feel overwhelmed at first - not to know what to expect from your disease or from treatment. We will do all we can to ease the process. To find out what to expect from a variety of visits and treatments, please read the topics below.

When You Arrive

The doctor sees patients on an appointment basis. Wheelchairs are available at all locations for patients who need assistance. When you arrive for your appointment, please check in with the receptionist. At that time, the receptionist will direct you to the next area (patient account services, laboratory, exam room, etc). We try to adhere to scheduled visit times, but emergencies may delay the doctor's schedule. We apologize if this should happen and want you to know we respect your time and value you as our patient.

On Your First Visit

After you check in during your initial visit, you will begin the registration process. Your patient services representative will ask you to provide basic personal information: your social security number, driver's license and all insurance cards. Your patient services representative will then review your insurance coverage and explain our billing and reimbursement procedures. As a patient, you have the primary responsibility for charges that are incurred. Your patient representative will help explain your financial obligations.

When Filling Your Prescription

Many prescriptions can be refilled over the phone. Simply call your pharmacist with the name of the medication and the prescription number, which can be found on the medicine bottle. The pharmacist will then call your physician's office for refill approval. If possible, please try to phone in your request during regular office hours and early in the day.

Certain controlled medications, such as narcotics (Percocet, Tylox, etc.), require a special written prescription and by law CANNOT be refilled over the phone. You or a family member will need to come to the office to pick up this type of prescription and then take it to your pharmacy to be filled. It is very important that you request your narcotic prescription when you have a two to three day supply left. Narcotic prescriptions must be filled within seven days of the date shown on the prescription or they will be void. Also, please check your medicine amounts prior to the holidays and weekends to see if you will need a refill since narcotic prescriptions can only be written during office hours.

Patient Phone Calls

Between seeing patients in the office, your physician's nurse returns patient phone calls in the order received or as emergency calls arise. If you feel your call is an emergency, please advise the receptionist of this when you call. Your nurse is very knowledgeable and may be able to advise you. Your nurse will inform your physician about any problems. If you wish to speak directly to your physician, tell your nurse. Your physician will return your call -- at the end of office hours if necessary.

Test Results

Ask your nurse how you will be notified about your lab and radiology results. For most other tests, such as CAT scans, PET/CT scans, bone scans or MRIs, it usually takes two to three days for your physician to obtain results.

Return Appointment

At the end of each visit, ask your physician when you should return. This enables you to make your next appointment before you leave the office. Please make sure you know the reason for your next visit:

  • Blood work only
  • Chemotherapy or radiation treatment
  • A physician appointment, with or without blood work

To see the physician, you need to schedule an appointment. For other appointments, please check with your nurse to determine the best time to come in.