Woke up to news that they found a mass? Below are some tips and steps to take in order to take the right step toward treatment and recovery in your cancer journey.
Ask your Doctor about their Recommended Plan of Care
Listen to your doctor, and importantly, ask as many questions as you can. A cancer diagnosis can be incredibly difficult and complex. Your doctor has likely made a countless number of diagnoses and has seen many successful treatment plans. They know the best oncology and surgery teams to which they can refer you. Make sure to ask your doctor about their recommendations for your next steps on your road to treatment.
Set up a Consultation with a Colorectal Surgeon and Oncologist
The next step to treatment is to get a consultation from a trusted colorectal surgeon. Ask your gastroenterologist for their recommendation for a colorectal surgeon, and confirm with your insurance that the recommended surgeon is covered by your plan. If they are not, it may be worthwhile to research a surgeon covered by your plan, as uninsured rates can pile up quickly for office visits and procedures.
\The surgeon will confirm the gastroenterologist's diagnosis via a biopsy. If the results come back and show the mass to be malignant, the colorectal surgeon will then offer their advice on treatment, and possibly refer you to an oncologist.
If the cancer is shown to have progressed, the oncologist may want to offer a different treatment plan than a colon resection. This plan may include chemotherapy or radiation, before or after a surgical procedure, depending on the location, size, progression, and markers of the mass. Often times, it is a worthwhile investment to seek a second opinion from another oncology team to ensure the treatment is optimal, as the guidelines for treatment are constantly updated and different oncology centers may opt for different plans. For a list of the top rated cancer centers in Florida and across the United States, click here.
View Our Resource Library
While waiting for appointment dates, you may be left with a lot of extra time and a racing mind, constantly worried about your health and treatment. You may feel like there is so much to do, and so much to know, but you may have no idea what to do. Our Resources page offers many different resources that may be beneficial to you and your treatment plan. Among these are other colon cancer organizations, all of which offer unlimited resources and support; and treatment guidelines, which all practitioners are to follow.
This waiting period is a good time to sign up for Colontown, a community of more than 100 private groups on Facebook for colorectal cancer patients and carepartners. Based on your demographics and disease information, you can be placed into different "neighborhoods" where you can connect with other patients in a similar boat as you. There are specific neighborhoods based on cancer stage, state of residence, gender, among other factors. Many colon cancer patients swear by Colontown as the best resource for colon cancer, including our own president, Karen Fisher.
Consider Financial Outlook
Treatment options for colorectal cancer can pile up quickly, which is why it is very important to work closely with your insurance and treatment center to get treatment at an affordable rate. Make sure that all of your practitioners fall under your insurance plan, and ask your insurance which steps you can take to ensure that as much of your treatment possible is covered.
Additionally, it is a good idea to seek out other financial resources, such as Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs), national financial assistance programs, or free clinics offered by many practitioners which can often help save a lot of money. For more information about financial resources, click here.
Depending on the stage of your cancer and your willingness, you may be able to qualify for a colorectal cancer clinical trial, many of which cover the cost of treatment or provide a sizeable stipend to help pay for some of the costs associated with colorectal cancer. Many of the colon cancer organizations, linked in our Resources section, provide clinical trial information and may be able to put you in touch with the coordinator of the trial.
Build a Support System and Trust in your Treatment
Perhaps the worst part of cancer is how emotionally exhausting it can be. Building a strong support system will allow you to have people to confide in and give you a purpose to keep going. Find bonds in your family, friends, and seek support groups, such as the aforementioned Colontown, that will allow you to connect with other people that will help you stay strong in your treatment.
Our Foundation offers a patient support network, where our patient advocates will regularly reach out to you and offer you support and resources. If you would find this helpful, visit the bottom of our Patients page, where you can fill in some information about yourself and we will contact you. Additionally, we offer regular support group meetings, where you can talk and confide amongst other colon cancer patients and caregivers. Visit our Events page to find more information about our upcoming support group meetings.
*The information above is listed solely as informational resources and are not a recommendation or referral to medical care. The information gathered above is drawn from U.S. News' top ranked practitioners and is NOT a product of our own recommendations. For more information, see our Medical Advice Disclaimer.