What are some keys to understanding a cancer diagnosis without getting lost in the terminology?

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Answered by: Emily, An Expert in the Cancer 101 Category
Certainly it is terrifying; a simple phone call from the doctor's office after a mammogram, a colonoscopy or other cancer-defining tests can suddenly change everything. Hearing a medical professional's diagnosis of cancer can be harrowing, but it is does not have to be. In the last few decades advancements in cancer treatments have increased dramatically as have diagnostic examinations to diagnose cancer earlier. Yet, the news of cancer in one's body is very hard to hear. So, what are some keys to understanding a cancer diagnosis without getting lost in the terminology?

The first thing you want to do after hearing the diagnosis is give yourself a few moments to emotionally respond to the news. It is important to allow the initial shock to happen so that it does not become a prolonged phase that can inhibit your need address the diagnosis. The next thing you want to do is to ask your physician to explain the diagnosis without using medical terms or by explaining each term used. A key thing to understanding the diagnosis, the treatment and potential changes in lifestyle is to be clear about each facet of the diagnosis and prognosis. The internet is brimming with articles and research on tradition medical and alternative treatments including acupuncture, mind-body healing and similar techniques. These are all things you want to discuss with your doctor or with the medical professional providing your second opinion.

Developing a vocabulary list is also a great idea. The list can become part of your knowledge guide to cancer. When time or customer service does not present the opportunity for your need for definitions to be addressed, you can either consult your list or add to it in order to increase your understanding. A particularly helpful component of your vocabulary list should be categorical words. For instance, words like lipids typically refer to fat or oil molecules, while hemo will refer to matters of the blood. This basic understanding can then provide some clarification when terminology is more medical than every day language. Your vocabulary list should also include a list of standard prescribed medications, their specifications and most prominent side effects. While many people fight through cancer in isolation, a support group is an ideal location to pose the lingering question about what are some keys to understanding a cancer diagnosis without getting lost in the terminology? Those in the group have had to wade through not only that question but a slew of others. A support group can be an integral part of your knowledge guide to cancer as well as a sounding board for concerns, fears and other resources.

The most important thing to remember is that the diagnosis does not have to be terminal. It is also critical to remember that with any major illness it is important to take a holistic approach towards a more positive prognosis. Your cancer treatment program should be medical, emotional, spiritual and nutritional. The diagnosis may knock you down but a good knowledge base can pull you up and make treatment more tolerable.

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