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Newly Diagnosed With Cancer

Learn the basics about your cancer.

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There is a medical learning curve required to be an informed consumer. This doesn't mean that you need to learn enough to become a doctor. You only need enough information to be able to have a precise discussion with your medical team and to be able to make informed decisions. 

The kind of cancer you have is stated on a a pathology (path-AWL-uh-gee) report. Pathology reports have to be written in language a layperson can understand. If you have a tumor, the report also states whether the tumor is likely to grow quickly or slowly. The pathology report uses a system of numbers and letters to show how serious your cancer is and to decide your 'cancer stage.' Sometimes cancer cells break away from a tumor and spread to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system or bloodstream. The cells can settle in other places in the body and form new tumors. This is called metastasis (meh-TAS-tuh-sis). Even when cancer has spread to a new place in the body, it is still named after the part of the body where it started.

Information about each type of cancer is available from the American Cancer Society: offsite link. Click on "Learn About Cancer." Then click on the type of cancer.

You can also do research on your own. If you search the internet:

  • Check the reliability of the site.
  • Expect to be anxious and possibly depressed. Much of the information you'll read about is likely to be about the worst cases. Keep in mind that these articles do not describe what will happen to you.You are an individual and your situation is unique.

Keep in mind that: 
  • Statistics only refer to groups of individuals historically and do not tell what will happen to you or any other individual. 
  • By its nature, research literature will always be behind the current state of treatment. 
  • What happens to you will be unique to your specific set of circumstances. 
  • Even if the odds are a million to one, learn to approach your situation as if you are the one.     
Keep track of all questions that come up from your research, so you can ask your doctor about them. 

If research tends to increase your stress levels, ask a family member or friend to do it and to tell you what you need to know. Alternatively, you can hire a medical research service to do the work for you for a fee. The services will take the details of your situation, search the literature, and prepare a report for you. 



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