Getting a cancer diagnosis can be devastating. After the initial shock wears off, you may find yourself asking Now what? There are many things to think about and deal with as far as what comes next. It can help you to know what to expect and how to cope with the fear and anxiety after a cancer diagnosis. The following tips and resources below can help you get started.
Understand your diagnosis. Work with your healthcare providers to learn as much as you can about your cancer diagnosis. Asking questions and learning the answers can help you know what to expect in the days, weeks, and months ahead. For example, you’ll likely want to learn about how treatment is planned and how cancer will impact your life. It can be helpful to prepare a list of the questions you want to talk about with your healthcare provider. Creating a discussion guide is a good way to keep track of the questions and answers you discuss with your healthcare provider. You can get more supportive resources at:
- Get Healthy Stay Healthy: Discussing Cancer with Your Doctor
- American Cancer Society: What Should I Ask My Doctor?
Find the right healthcare team. It usually takes many healthcare providers to treat and manage your cancer. For example, in addition to your regular healthcare provider, you may need to receive care from an oncologist (a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer), a surgical oncologist, a dietitian, a pain specialist, and others. You can get more supportive resources at:
- American Cancer Society: Choosing Your Treatment Team
- Get Healthy Stay Healthy: How to Find the Right Doctor for You
- Get Healthy Stay Healthy: Should You Get a Second Opinion?
Learn about your treatment options. The type of treatment you will receive depends on the kind of cancer you have, how far it has spread (called stage), your health history, and your personal needs. During your discussions with your healthcare provider, ask about the goals of your treatment (e.g., to stop the cancer from spreading or to cure it), your treatment options, how long the treatment will last, and side effects. You can learn more at:
You may also wish to explore complementary and alternative medical treatments. You can learn more at:
Create a support system. Having support and emotional connections can be an important part of your overall treatment plan. These include online communities, phone or live chat services, rides to treatment, and patient lodging programs. You can get more supportive resources at:
- American Cancer Society: Find Support Programs and Services in Your Area
- Get Healthy Stay Healthy: Choosing a Support Group
- National Comprehensive Cancer Network®: Finding Support Systems for People with Cancer
Let the LivingWith free mobile app help you manage life with cancer
LivingWith is a free mobile app for people living with cancer. It’s designed to help manage life with cancer and organize certain important information in one place. The app can help you:
- Build a network of support from friends and family to get help with daily tasks
- Record and remember important information from doctor visits
- Track mood, pain, and connect with wearables
- Get organized and store key documents
- Find information about local events and nutrition articles
You can download this app at no charge via the Apple store, Google app store, or via www.ThisIsLivingWithCancer.com.
Think about how you want to tell others. Deciding when, what, and how to talk about your cancer is a deeply personal decision. You can get more supportive resources at:
- American Cancer Society: Telling Others About Your Cancer
- Leukemia & Lymphoma Society®: Do I Tell Anyone I Have Cancer?
Work through your feelings. It can be challenging to deal with the emotional aspects of having cancer. You may have feelings you haven’t had before or your feelings may change from moment to moment. You may feel overwhelmed or angry. You can get more supportive resources at:
Manage your health insurance and finances. Navigating the financial aspects of cancer and its treatment is an important part of your cancer journey. Take the time to look into your health insurance options, including private, employer-sponsored, and government-funded plans. It may also be worthwhile to learn about some of the laws about healthcare insurance, such as medical leave, COBRA, and disability. And if you’re worried about paying for medical care or a prescription, you may be eligible to receive financial help. You can get more supportive resources at:
- American Cancer Society: Finding and Paying for Treatment
- Leukemia & Lymphoma Society®: Financial Support
Manage life with cancer. Having cancer and receiving treatment may have a significant impact on your daily life—and on your family’s life as well. Don’t hesitate to talk with your healthcare provider about how people manage life with cancer. You can get more supportive resources at:
- American Cancer Society. Survivorship: During and After Treatment.
- Get Healthy Stay Healthy: Life as a Cancer Survivor
- Breast Cancer: A Story Half Told
- Hope for Two: The Pregnant with Cancer Network
- Cancer + Careers. Be the Boss Over Cancer
For more websites that can help you through your cancer journey, please see Take the Next Step below.
Caroline Pak, PharmD, is a pharmacist and the Medical Editor-in-Chief for Get Healthy Stay Healthy at Pfizer.
- 1. American Cancer Society. After Diagnosis: A Guide for Patients and Families. Accessed September 13, 2017.
- 2. American Cancer Society. Choosing Your Treatment Team. Accessed September 13, 2017.
- 3. American Cancer Society. Health Professionals Associated With Cancer Care. Accessed September 13, 2017.
- 4. American Cancer Society. Making Treatment Decisions. Accessed September 13, 2017.
- 5. American Cancer Society. What Should I Ask My Doctor? Accessed September 13, 2017.
- 6. American Cancer Society. Find Support Programs and Services in Your Area. Accessed September 13, 2017.
- 7. American Cancer Society. Telling Others About Your Cancer. Accessed September 13, 2017.
- 8. Cancer.gov. National Cancer Institute. Feelings and Cancer. Accessed September 13, 2017.
- 9. American Cancer Society. Understanding Health Insurance. Accessed September 13, 2017.