Remarkable progress has been made over the past few decades in India regarding the understanding & treatment of cancer. Developing the ability to cure & control this dreadful condition, Indian healthcare sector has made rapid advances with advanced treatment procedures including imaging tests, surgical techniques & radiation therapies with help of which oncologists can target & see what is happening at cellular levels in order to facilitate containing spread of cancer. Moreover, success will continue to come as oncologists are united across borders in their quest to help patients overcome the menace of cancer.
What is Cancer?
Cancer basically refers to any one of a vast number of diseases which are characterized by development of abnormal cells which uncontrollably divide & develop an ability to infiltrate & destroy the normal healthy body tissue. Cancer also has the ability to spread throughout the body. Although survival rates are improving for several types of cancer due to improvements in screening & cancer treatments, cancer is still the second leading cause of death in the United States. Cancer is also one of the leading causes of death worldwide. 14 million new cases were reported few years back & the number of newer cases is expected to rise by 70 percent within the next 20 years of time. Number of cancer related deaths a few years back, were reported to be 8.2 million.
What is Oncology?
This is the field of medicine which is solely devoted to cancer & cancer treatment. Clinical oncology however consists of three primary disciplines. Medical oncology, which deals with the treatment of cancer with help of medicine, including chemotherapy; surgical oncology deals with surgical interventions associated with cancer including biopsy, staging for cancers & surgical resection of malignant tumors & radiation oncology which involves treatment of cancer with therapeutic radiation techniques.
What Patients Should Do
- Prior to Initial Appointment – Patients should make sure to inquire if there is anything that they need to do in advance, like restrictions on diets for tests at the time of appointment.
- Write Down Signs & Symptoms – Patients should write down symptoms they are experiencing including any which may not seem related to the reason for which the initial appointment is scheduled.
- Write Down Key Personal Information – This information must also include any kind of major stresses or recent changes in life.
- Write Down Family History of Cancer – In case other members of the patients’ family have been earlier diagnosed with cancer, make a note of the type of cancer & as to how each person is related & the time when the person was diagnosed.
- Keep a List of Medications – This list should include supplements, vitamins & all types of medications the patient is currently taking.
- Consider Taking Along a Friend or Family Member – This is important because sometimes it is quite difficult to remember all the information which was given by the doctor during an initial appointment. A person who is accompanying the patient for the appointment would be able to remember what the patient has missed or forgotten.
Because time with specialist doctors is limited, it would be sensible to prepare a list of questions which can help the patient make most of the time during the initial appointment. Some basic questions regarding cancer which patients can ask doctors are listed below.
- What type of cancer am I having?
- At what stage is my cancer?
- Will I require any additional tests?
- What treatment options do I have?
- Will treatments be able to cure my cancer?
- What can I expect from treatment if my cancer cannot be cured?
- What potential side effects of treatments can I expect?
- Is there any one treatment which you think is best for me?
- How soon do I have to begin treatment?
- How will my treatment affect my daily life?
- Will I be able to continue working during treatment?
- Are there any experimental treatments or clinical trials available for my cancer?
- I am having other health conditions as well. How will I be able to manage them alongside my treatment for cancer?
- Is there any kind of restrictions which I need to follow?
- Do I need to see another specialist?
- Is there any generic alternative to medicines you are prescribing for me?
- Can you give me any brochures or printed materials which I can take with me?
- Which websites would you recommend I refer to for more information?
- What would determine my plan for follow-up visits?
In addition to these questions, the patient should feel free to ask as many other questions that come to their mind. The patient should not hesitate to ask questions which come to their mind.
The specialist doctor is also likely to ask a number of questions to patients. Staying prepared to answer these will allow the patient more time to cover other points which they want to address. Specialist doctors usually ask the following questions.
- When was it that you first began to experience these symptoms?
- Have these symptoms been occasional or continuous?
- How severe are these symptoms?
- What is it, if anything that seems to improve symptoms?
- What is it, if anything that appears to worsen symptoms?
- Is there anyone else in the family who is having cancer?
- Did you have cancer earlier? If so, what type of cancer?
- Were you ever exposed to chemicals at home or the workplace?
- Do you smoke cigarettes or use tobacco?
- Were you ever diagnosed with hepatitis infection or human papillomavirus infection?
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