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(7) Cancer, Symptoms & Treatment

 Prostate cancer: Essential facts

Prostate Cancer

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How can I be sure to get the information I want from my doctor?

Pete’s comment:

Before meeting with my oncologist, I write my questions on an index card. My wife is always with me to ask additional questions and take notes if necessary. By using this approach, I feel much more relaxed and in control. I also find that my oncologist’s nurse practitioner is extremely helpful and provides follow-up answers to a number of questions.

Mary Ann’s comment:

It is very important to establish a good rapport with your doctor and the nurses who care for us. We have to realize that these medical professionals want what is best for us. However, we do not always hear what we are being told, and it is important to bring along someone who will remain objective and keep track of the information given to you by the medical staff and prompt you to ask the questions that you always think of after you leave the doctor’s office. Don’t be afraid to ask any question regarding your care. It’s far better for the staff to know what is on your mind so that they can put you at ease with whatever decisions you make.

It’s important to feel comfortable with your doctor, to trust his or her medical judgment, and to feel you can communicate. Doctors will generally try to tell you everything you need to know about your disease and treatment, but they may not tell you everything you want to know. So, first, you must decide what you want to know.

Everyone approaches a diagnosis of cancer differently.

Some people want to know every detail about their disease, treatment, and prognosis and to be involved in every decision. Others prefer to know only the basics and to have their family or doctor make the decisions for them. Of course, many people fall between these extremes. In addition, at various points in time, you may want to know different things. When you are first diagnosed, your concerns will be different from those you may have during treatment or when you are no longer receiving treatment.

Each time you visit your doctor, decide beforehand what questions you have. Talk with members of your family or anyone else you can speak openly with to focus your thoughts and concerns. Write your questions down on a piece of paper. There are no stupid questions, so include everything that concerns you.

When you see your doctor, state at the beginning of the visit that, before you leave that day, you would like to ask questions. That helps your doctor plan extra time to speak with you.

Here are some questions you may want to ask when you first meet with your oncologist:

• Is the cancer localized, or has it spread to other sites?

• What other diagnostic tests do I need?

• Can this cancer be surgically removed?

• What choices do I have to treat the cancer?

• What treatment do you recommend and why?

• What is the goal of this treatment?

• What are the risks of this treatment?

• How will you know if the treatment is working?

• What are the alternatives to this treatment?

• How will I feel during and after treatment?

• What side effects will I have from treatment?

• What are the possible long-term effects of treatment?

• What do I need to do to care for myself during treatment?

• Will I be able to work and continue my usual activities during treatment?

• For what reasons should I call your office?

When answering your questions, your doctor may present a lot of information and use terms that are unfamiliar or confusing. As you listen, you may feel anxious or afraid and find it difficult to understand everything that is being said. If you don’t understand something, ask the doctor to explain it.

You may find it helpful to bring a family member or friend with you to your doctor visits. They can be a second set of ears, can take notes while the doctor is speaking, and can review the answers with you when you get home. If something is still unclear when you get home, call the office the next day. The nurse who works with your doctor may also be able to answer many of your questions. You are entitled to have your questions answered; be persistent.

Some patients find they are more comfortable not getting detailed answers to questions, but family members may have many questions. Identify one person to be the family spokesperson, coming to office visits and contacting your doctor as needed to ask questions. The family spokesperson can use the same suggestions just described to clarify what everyone wants to know and to be sure to get everyone’s questions answered.

Before each visit with your doctor, write your questions down on a piece of paper.

If you don’t understand something, ask the doctor to explain it.

How can I find clinical trials that may be appropriate for me?

Clinical trials are research studies designed to test the effectiveness of new treatments on humans. If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial, hold off starting treatment until you have investigated the options. Ask your doctor for recommendations and whether it is safe for you to delay your treatment. Your doctor may also be able to help you find clinical trials available for you and determine whether you are eligible for them.

The following resources provide listings of clinical trials for particular cancers and cancer symptoms:

• National Cancer Institute: www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials

• National Institutes of Health: www.clinicaltrials.gov

• Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups: www.cancertrialshelp.org

• Centerwatch: www.centerwatch.com

• National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN): www.nccn.org

How can I find out about complementary or alternative therapies?

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) refers to a wide variety of approaches to improving health and treating disease that the traditional medical community does not recognize as standard or conventional.

When used in addition to conventional methods of treatment, they are referred to as complementary; when used instead of conventional methods of treatment, they are referred to as alternative.

There are several reliable sources of information about complementary and alternative therapies. Because of the rapidly changing state of knowledge about this area of medicine, the Internet provides the most up-to-date information.

The following websites provide general information on these therapies:

• Cancer Information Service of the National Cancer Institute: www.cancer.gov/cancerinfo/treatment/cam

• National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health: www.nccam.nih.gov/health

• Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: www.mskcc.org/aboutherbs

• MD Anderson Cancer Center: www.mdanderson.org/topics/complementary

• American Academy of Medical Acupuncture: www.medicalacupuncture.org

The following organizations provide information specifically on dietary supplements, including vitamins, minerals, and botanicals (plants or plant parts valued for their medicinal properties; includes herbal products; commonly prepared as a tea, an extract, or a tincture):

• Office of Dietary Supplements of the National Institutes of Health: www.dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov

• Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: http://www.fda.gov/Food/

• American Botanical Council: www.herbalgram.org

Finally, for scientific bibliographic citations related to particular therapies, see the

• National Library of Medicine: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/

Term:

 Botanicals - Plants or plant parts valued for their medicinal properties; includes herbal products; commonly prepared as a tea, an extract, or a tincture.

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