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How To Become Your Best Cancer Care Advocate

A Cancer Advocate is an individual who is willing to take some responsibility and some control of their life circumstances with cancer. According to NCCS, cancer is perceived as a challenge rather than an enemy when faced by the patient himself. To become your best cancer advocate you should have a proper understanding of the complex nature of this disease. This is vital because it will have a great impact on the first step you take which in turn will determine the quality of care that you will receive after cancer diagnosis. Therefore, follow these five steps that will help you to make smart decisions and that will be beneficial for you in the long term.

Step 1: Decide on a team of medical specialist:

There are different type of cancers with particular one common thing: abnormal growth and accumulation of abnormal cells. Thus, it's important for you to remember that you are not only diagnosed with cancer but you are diagnosed with a particular type of cancer. So, you have to choose a doctor who has considerable experience in treating your type of cancer.

You can start finding your care team from country’s most prominent cancer societies, such as American Society of Clinical Oncology and National Comprehensive Cancer Network. You should choose your care team depending upon their expertise, credentials, accessibility and should give an individualized attention to your case.

The doctor you choose should be a board certified oncologist. However, there are certain health care providers who specialize in the treatment of specific types of cancer. For example, a urologist is specialized in treating prostate cancer or a dermatologist is specialized in treating skin cancer.

Step 2: Integrate your team of medical professionals:

During your on-going treatment process, you will have to interact with more than one specialist that is your general practitioner, oncologist, radiologist, surgeon, etc. These specialists are experts in their own field and therefore would be analyzing your case according to their focused role. Remember, you are a team and you have to work together or you have to make them work together on every step of your treatment process.

To make them work together as a team, you can make a group email address and include all the medical professionals of the team who is responsible for your health care. This will help you to update all of them at the same time regarding any important information about your health.

Step 3: Store your tissue samples

Most of the people are aware that the tissue sample obtained from biopsied lumps or tumors is the one of the most important and reliable source that helps in diagnosing the cancer. However, very less are aware that it is the first assessment of your disease which has not undergone any kind of alteration due to a particular treatment process. It may hold certain clues which can be helpful to your doctors. So, ask your doctor to bank the tissue sample so that you can benefit from the new technology or a new piece of information in your future treatment process.

Step 4: Know your sequence:

Patients with lung, breast or colorectal cancer has to undergo genetic testing routinely. This helps doctors in determining which therapy works best for a particular person with a specific genetic profile. Such routine is not followed everywhere. There are some cancer centers who have technology to sequence some or all patient’s cancer genome. Consult your team of professionals to understand what is right for you and what it means for your treatment options.

Step 5: Explore different treatment options:

During the course of treatment, you and your team of professionals decide to change the method and explore other treatment alternatives such as enrolling in a clinical trial. There is a website which lists different ongoing trials and if you are interested, click on the above link. Moreover, you should be sure that your team is assessing different treatment options and you should be ready to go outside of their direct care. But they should be knowledgeable about the different choices put before you and should act as a friend and supporter in getting the appropriate care that you deserve.

Thus, as a self-advocate you should have the ability to find the best experts and make them work together as a team which should be approachable, manageable, well-organized and are capable to change as per the circumstances.

Reference: National Coalition For Cancer Survivorship

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