Every cancer patient is entitled to make an informed decision. While it sounds so simple, it is possibly one of the most difficult aspects in getting started in the right direction. Being told that nothing can be done, that surgery is required tomorrow or take these pills and come back in 90 days is not making an informed decision.
The diagnosis of cancer is something that we have probably never been told in our life. It is a new experience that rocks our imagination and makes us realize our mortality. We are totally out of control. We have lost our power of rational thinking. We literally turn off and hear nothing else that is said. We have no idea what questions to ask because we have never been there.
And yet we have to make the decisions that could mean our life or death.
Cancer is an unusual disease for many reasons – if it isn’t treated properly the first time, often there is no second chance because cancer grows geometrically. One treatment might preclude the proper treatment from being given later. Doctors are humans and could make a mistake. Rarely is cancer diagnosed by an oncologist (It is generally diagnosed by an optometrist,
gynecologist, urologist, dermatologist, GI, GP, etc.) and that doctor may not want to lose the revenue or admit that someone knows more than he does. Cancer is an extremely complex disease, or a combination of over 100 different diseases, and is treated by various methods administered by specialists in that particular type of treatment, often given in combinations. It is so complex, there is no possible way any single physician could know the latest and best treatment for every type of cancer.
To make an informed decision, the patient must be aware of all the possible treatments, their benefits and side effects, and chances of success, not just one particular therapy an individual might suggest. The patient must realize that the responsibility is theirs to learn all the facts so they can decide. Sure it is tough, particularly at this time after this news, but it is their life, no one else’s. To get these facts, talk to the specialists who give the various treatments that could possibly be beneficial. Get the information directly from the most reliable source. Never take one person’s statement about what someone else could or could not do.
The easiest and most simple way to accomplish this is to have a multidisciplinary second opinion. This is where a panel consisting of a medical oncologist, radiation oncologist and surgeon, if their specialty is applicable to your type of cancer, sit across the table from you and explain your situation from beginning to end with their recommendations. Then you truly have all the facts and you are in a position to make an informed decision. If you would like the phone number of the panel nearest to you, call 800-433-0464. They are located all over the US and their goal is to see that you have the best chance of success.