How to Handle the Days and Weeks After a Cancer Diagnosis

If you live in the United States, you have a roughly 41 percent* chance of being diagnosed with cancer at some point in your life. For women in the US, the statistic is one in three. And most cancer diagnoses do not come with any warning, which is why it is so hard for people to process the news. At one moment, you are living a normal and seemingly healthy life. And in another moment, you have to deal with the realization that you may die from cancer in the coming weeks, months or years. Even if the type of cancer you have is not significantly fatal, you may be feeling incredibly frustrated, depressed and anxious. Here are some tips on how to handle the weeks and months after you learn about your diagnosis:


– Details, Details, Details:

It may be painful and it may cause you more anxiety, but you have to learn as much as you can about your diagnosis. Whether you achieve this by talking with your doctor or asking them to give you some printouts with details on your diagnosis, you must learn about the type of cancer you have, its location and size, when it started and whether it has spread to other parts of your body. Knowing your current circumstances will help you when you talk with your doctor about the next steps.

– Do Not Go Through It Alone:cancer-test

You may feel ashamed, saddened or heartbroken about having to tell your loved ones you have cancer, but these are not the moments where you can afford to close off. Dealing with a cancer diagnosis is hard enough, but trying to go through it with no help is almost impossible. Tell your closest family and friends and have at least one or two people who can help you through every doctor’s appointment and chemotherapy session.

– Treatment Options:

When you have properly processed your cancer diagnosis and dealt with the emotional aftermath of the news, it is time to figure out the next stage of your life. Depending on the type of cancer you have and its current stage, you may have a few days or weeks before you have to make a firm decision about your treatment.

knownTalk with a cancer specialist about the options on the table, the prognosis with each option and the financial aspects of each choice. If you are married, have a partner or have kids, talk with them about the various options so they know what to expect.

It is always good to have a partner, family members or close friends who can help you talk through the various options that you have. Whether it is chemotherapy, surgery or some other type of treatment, you need to bounce these ideas off someone else to stop yourself from going crazy. But you must also remember that the final decision is yours because it is your life that is at stake.

Consult with your doctor again and try to make a firm decision about treatment as soon as possible.

*Update: In an earlier version we had incorrectly stated that you have 50% of being diagnosed with cancer in your life. This was a mistake. The chances are relative, depending on family history, lifestyle (smokers vs non-smokers), and sometimes none of these is a factor either.

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