The period immediately after a cancer diagnosis is generally a time of stress and uncertainty, and the need to make treatment decisions may further add to the distress. If you have been diagnosed with cancer, you need to be able to talk openly with your doctor about your treatment options, and continue to ask questions and stay informed throughout your treatment and follow-up.
Some doctors use a form to make sure that their patients have all the information they need about their cancer and its treatment. The form that I use, provided here ("What You Need to Know About Your Cancer"), specifically lists the diagnosis, the prognosis (particularly whether your disease is curable or not), and the treatment goals for your illness.
You can take this form to your cancer doctor, and ask him or her to fill it out and go over it with you.
Before starting therapy, you should get as much information as you can about all the possible treatment options for your cancer. My patients find it useful to ask me a series of questions about each treatment (see "Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before Starting Chemotherapy").
In addition to the information you get from your doctor, you can also easily obtain information on cancer treatments on your own for free from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
A phone call to 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) can get you state-of-the-art information. Calling 1-301-402-5874 from your fax machine ties you into CancerFax, which can get you current information describing the diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and outcomes for nearly every common cancer.