What to do if you receive a cancer diagnosis

Posted by Purvi Gada, MD, Minnesota Oncology and Ridgeview Cancer & Infusion Center on Jan 23, 2019 1:53:47 PM

Gada Purvi-OnlineIf you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with cancer, you're probably filled with questions and concerns about available treatment options, cost of treatment and fears about the future. The cancer care team from Minnesota Oncology & Ridgeview Cancer & Infusion Center has created the following information to provide guidance and answer questions to help you choose the best way forward.

Your first appointment

Expect to receive a lot of information during your first appointment. Occasionally, the patient or their family member has researched the type of cancer and treatment options using online tools. However, every patient's situation is different. While there are some typical cancer treatment protocols, they don't apply to everyone.


Between visits you can jot down questions and concerns that come up so you'll remember to discuss them with your cancer team. If you're worried that you'll miss important information while you're taking notes or a written notebook isn't ideal for you, you might want to record conversations with your physician.

Questions to ask your oncologist

When you are diagnosed with cancer, there are certain questions you should ask your doctor so you'll better understand your illness and what to expect during treatment. We recommend that you write other questions in your cancer notebook, so you'll make sure to ask your oncologist.

Your cancer care team may not know all of the answers to these questions at your first appointment, but once you have a treatment plan in place, you should be able to get through this entire list.

  • What is my exact diagnosis and stage?
  • Will I need more tests?
  • Do I need to change my diet?
  • What are the treatment options for my cancer?
  • What is the goal of treatment - to cure or control my symptoms?
  • Does my cancer treatment plan include surgery and/or radiation?
  • What are the possible risks of treatment?
  • Will cancer treatment affect my daily life?
  • What are the side effects of my treatment options?
  • How long will treatment last?
  • What problems or symptoms should I report right away?
  • What does my future (prognosis) look like, as you see it?
  • Do my siblings or children have an increased risk of developing this type of cancer?
  • Should I exercise during chemotherapy or radiation treatments?
  • Will I need to see other medical or cancer specialists as part of my treatment?

Cancer clinical trials

Clinical trials help uncover various new cancer treatment options for a variety of cancers, and give many patients the opportunity to receive newly developed cancer treatment therapies or investigational drugs not yet available outside the study. Talk to your oncologist to determine if you'd be a good candidate for a clinical trial.

Insurance coverage

Financial concerns are common among cancer patients. If you have insurance, your policy will probably cover at least some of your cancer treatment. Every policy is different and every patient's recommended course treatment will be unique.

After your cancer diagnosis, contact your insurer and ask for a copy of your medical insurance benefits. You won't immediately know what your suggested treatment plan will be, but once your oncologist finalizes your individualized treatment plan, you can work with a patient financial counselor who can help you determine what your insurance will and will not cover.

If you do not have insurance, you may qualify for financial assistance through non-profits or foundations. A patient financial counselor can help you explore these options and apply for financial assistance if needed.

Cancer support groups

Many hospitals, cancer centers, community groups and schools offer cancer support groups. A survivorship program can assist you in understanding your diagnosis, treatment plan and connect you with needed resources during and after your cancer journey.

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Topics: Women's Health, oncology

Medical and health information presented here is intended to be general in nature, and should not be viewed as a substitute for professional advice. Please consult with a health care professional for all matters relating to personal medical and health care issues. In case of an emergency, please call 911. 

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