PLANNING COLORECTAL CANCER TREATMENT
Planning your colorectal cancer treatment should involve the entire team of specialists who consulted on your case, as well as your spouse, partner or your loved ones. As your case progresses, your team of healthcare professionals will review the information available, and discuss your case with you and among themselves. You’ll probably meet with various team members several times. Gather as much information as you can, while they develop a recommendation for a course of treatment that’s best suited to your case.
The key thing to remember is that it is you who will make the final decision, and all the members of the team need to respect it. That’s why it is so important for you to learn all you can about your disease. The more information you can gather before you begin treatment, the better you will feel about your decision, and the more active role you’ll be able to take. Don’t worry if you feel confused by the new words and concepts that you will come across. Most people do find them confusing at first. In the following days and weeks, as you talk with your healthcare professionals and gather additional information, you will become much more comfortable with the knowledge you need, and you will be able to make informed decisions.
Getting a Second Opinion Selecting a treatment for your cancer is probably the most important issue you will ever face. For your own peace of mind, now and in the future, you may consider getting a “second opinion”—an evaluation of your case from another physician. Some patients are reluctant to do this, fearing that they may hurt the current doctor’s feelings. Remember, it is your body. You are entitled to evaluate all your options, and no competent healthcare provider will object to your seeking another viewpoint.
Changing Doctors Sometimes you may find that you are not getting along with one of the physicians treating you. The physician may seem abrupt, aloof, and uncaring, or fails to convince you of his or her competence. If this creates a barrier, let the physician know you wish to see someone else. The physician is probably as aware as you that a relationship based on trust and open communication has not been established, and will be happy to transfer your records to another practitioner.
To obtain a referral to a new physician, you may want to contact a reputable medical center or a local patient advocacy group, such as the Colon Cancer Alliance, or the American Cancer Society. You should feel free to look for other physicians, but not if you are just shopping for a doctor who will promise a cure, or guarantee to relieve all your fears.
Gathering Information The more you know, the more active you can be in your own care. Becoming well informed about your cancer and about your options is one of the most important steps you can take at this stage. A firm grasp of the facts will give you a sense of comfort and control. Your main source of information will be the professionals caring for you. Don’t hesitate to ask any question, no matter how simple it may seem.
Ask your support person to accompany you to the medical appointments. That person will help you take notes, tape record what was said, or ask additional questions. Make lists of topics you want to discuss, so that nothing is overlooked.
A lot of information—and, sadly, misinformation—is readily available on the internet. Be sure that the site you are consulting is managed by a reputable organization, and does not represent some individual’s bias. If you have questions or concerns about any information you come across, let a member of your healthcare team know that you wish to discuss the information at your next appointment. Together you can evaluate what you read, and decide whether it is applicable to you.