Knowledge Bank

What to Do

Here are Some Basic Points to Consider When You are Diagnosed

Remain calm.
It is important to appreciate that most cancers are not a medical emergency. Most cancers progress very slowly, providing time for patients and their families to consider all of the options. Some of the exceptions include certain forms of leukemia and thyroid cancer which may require immediate attention.

Confirm the diagnosis.
Cancer is a very difficult disease to diagnose and stage, requiring highly specialized pathologists and sophisticated molecular imaging and gene testing. Diagnosis and stage dictate the treatment course. In a recent study at UT MD Anderson Cancer Center >20% of diagnoses and >30% of image-guided staging were deemed inaccurate and, in nearly half of these cases, the treatment protocol would be impacted.
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Thus, it is prudent to confirm the diagnosis and staging at an NCI-designated cancer center, preferably a dedicated cancer center (sees only cancer).

Get a second opinion regarding treatment plan.
Outside of a high-volume NCI-designated cancer center, it is encouraged that patients confirm that the recommended treatment protocol is indeed the best standard of care possible today.

Seek multi-disciplinary care.
Optimal cancer care requires a coordinated team effort across different disciplines including oncologists, oncologic surgeons, radiation oncologists, internists, nutritionists and nurses – all specializing in specific cancer types. Most NCI-designated cancer centers are able to practice multi-disciplinary care due to their high volumes. There are significant differences in outcomes depending on where you are treated.

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