YOUR CANCER SUPPORT NETWORK
One of your first steps after you hear your diagnosis should be to assemble a cancer support network of people who can help you. This network will include a main support person and your loved ones, a solid team of health-care professionals, and perhaps a peer support group.
Your Main Support Person
Your loved ones will provide the emotional support and closeness you need, and help you sort out facts and fears, but you need to select one person—your spouse, partner, or best friend—who will be your main support person. He or she can become the center of your support network, acting as your sounding board, helping you to evaluate information and to make decisions, coordinating support from friends and family, and at times shielding you from excessive attention.
This companion will accompany you when you meet with your doctors, or when you go to your treatments, and help you ask questions, remember information, or write down instructions.
Your Healthcare Team
Cancer is a complicated disease and no single physician can be an expert in all aspects of the treatment. Developing a treatment plan is a complex task that will involve a number of healthcare professionals — a whole team of experts — who will give you their advices and recommendations.
Top-rated facilities have teams of experts, called multidisciplinary teams. If your hospital doesn’t, the National Cancer Institute, the Colon Cancer Alliance, or the American Cancer Society have resources to help you find healthcare professionals to add to your team. Avera Cancer Institute has a multidisciplinary team prepared to handle all aspects of your diagnosis, treatment, recovery, and life after cancer.[table id=14 /]Many hospitals have a nurse navigator who will guide you throughout the treatment and recovery process.
Your satisfaction with your care, and the success of your treatment depend on finding healthcare professionals with whom you can get along, and who are willing and able to listen to your concerns.
When selecting a surgeon, skill is an important factor. Feel free to question the surgeon about the number of procedures she or he had performed, and the success rate. A competent, confident professional will understand that your are concerned about your health, and will not take offense at your questions.
Scott L. Baker, MD, FACS – “We used to operate as individual physicians…”
MEMBERS OF YOUR HEALTHCARE TEAM
Anesthesiologist: Administers drugs or gasses that put you to sleep before surgery, and participates in pain control after surgery.
Colorectal Surgeon: A surgeon with extensive additional training to become a sub-specialist in colorectal surgery.
Enterostomal Therapist: A nurse or other health professional who teaches patients how to live with, and care for ostomies and colostomy apparatus.
Gastroenterologist: A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions affecting the digestive (gastrointestinal) tract.
Medical Oncologist: A doctor who administers anti-cancer drugs.
Nurse Navigator: A specially trained nurse who will be your guide during the treatment process, and help you overcome obstacles with education and support.
Nurses: Nurse with training or knowledge in a specific area, such as post-operative care, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.
Pathologist: A doctor who examines the tissue removed during a biopsy, and issues a report to help your doctor choose the most effective treatment.
Pharmacist: A doctor of pharmacy who prepares and dispenses prescribed medications.
Radiation Oncologist: A physician specially trained in using high energy x-rays for treatment.
Radiation Therapy Technologist: A technologist who works under the direction of the radiation oncologist to administer radiation treatment.
Social Worker: A trained professional who can deal with social and economic aspects of treatment, such as helping find a support group or solving an insurance issue.
Surgeon: A doctor who performs a variety of general surgical procedures.
Consider joining a support group. Support groups are groups of people who meet regularly, under the guidance of a trained facilitator, to discuss the participants’ concerns. Some groups exist as online support communities.
Some groups meet only a few times; others are long-term, enabling members to work through problems. Some are composed of people with the same disease. Others are selected by age or background. Some are just for patients; others include family or other special people.
Support groups give you a chance to openly discuss your thoughts with others who are going through the same experience. Many hospitals consider some form of group counseling to be a necessary part of the standard treatment.
Visit the support group a couple of times before joining, so you can be sure that the peer mix meets your needs and expectations.
Lynne Hunter, Social Worker – “Services are based on the individual’s needs.”