Knowing that cancer is a life threatening illness and there is generally only one chance to successfully treat it, when do you accept the advice being given by your physician and commence treatment? This is an extremely complex question. Some of the factors to be considered:
- Do you have a strong desire to live? On the surface, nearly everyone answers in the affirmative but when taking the Mental Attitude Quiz (Chapter 4 in Fighting Cancer) many actually are less desirous. In our opinion, an individual is not going to have the best chance of recovering if their desire to survive is not great.
- The qualifications of the physician who is recommending treatment. Is the physician recommending the treatments board certified in that field? How many cases of cancer similar to yours has this doctor treated within the past year successfully? Unsuccessfully? Are other therapies included in the recommendation or are others possible? Have opinions of specialists in those therapies been consulted? Are they in agreement?
- The physician’s prognosis. Does this doctor believe you can be successfully treated? If you are told this cancer will get the best of you, immediately try to find another physician who believes you can be successfully treated. By staying with a doctor who believes you will die from your disease will only help you to fulfill that prophecy. Get on the telephone and call other board-certified specialists, describe the type and stage of your cancer and ask if they believe they can successfully treat you. When you get a positive answer, visit this physician and see how you relate.
- The immediate and long range effects and benefits of therapies. This is an important and controversial question. Cancer therapies have a vicious reputation from days gone by. A lot of this is grossly untrue today. Effects of treatments vary greatly by individual. Don’t consider the possible side effects. The patient should remember that they are the boss. If they don’t try something, they will never know if it would have helped. If they try it and it is devastating, they have the unilateral option of stopping anytime they wish. Another factor is age. To destroy the quality of life for a 85 year old individual for a year to possibly get into remission probably would not be worth it. To damage a child’s quality of life for a relatively short period would definitely be worth it. I personally found the quality of life far better undergoing devastating treatments than waiting to die.
- When is a second opinion desirable? A second opinion is an opinion from one or more physicians completely away from the influence of the primary physician. The most desirable second opinions are multidisciplinary, as described in Fighting Cancer. If you are dealing with a qualified physician who states you can be successfully treated with a regimen that is satisfactory with you and has treated numerous others successfully with the same disease recently and his recommendations coincide with the state-of-the-art therapy from PDQ, go with that doctor. Stop looking for a magic bullet or an easy way out. Make up your mind to do everything in your power to try to beat this dreaded disease. Remember, cancer is a word, not a sentence.