Showing posts with label cancer patient. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cancer patient. Show all posts

Monday, January 21, 2013

Being Proactive About Your Health

If you've ever dealt with a major illness, either personally, or through a loved-one or good friend, you may have heard the term "advocate". More and more often, being an advocate for oneself can prevent difficulties that arise from miscommunications, unintentional delays in care, or simple misunderstandings of expectations.

The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) published a booklet titled "Self-Advocacy: A Cancer Survivor's Handbook" to help cancer patients and their caregivers navigate the confusing new world of treatment and to help individuals be prepared for most of the possible scenarios. We will share several things from the booklet over the next few months, but today we're focusing on being proactive - things you should know and prepare for before a diagnosis of cancer, or any other major illness.

The following points will, as explained by the NCCS, help reduce your misunderstanding and increase opportunities to get the best care available if, and when, you learn that you or someone you care about is diagnosed with cancer...

Study and understand your health insurance coverage. It is important to fully understand your choice of facilities and health care providers when selecting a health plan. When facing the need for second opinions or researching large treatment centers, you may face barriers to accessing this type of care based on your insurance coverage. If you think that you might want to get an opinion or treatment at a major cancer center and/or specialist out of your area (if you are diagnosed), make sure that you fully understand your "out of network" benefits. If you don't, contact your health plan or your employer's benefits administrator for clarification.

Headlines are meant to sell newspapers and magazines and can be misleading. Hardly a day goes by without a news story heralding some breakthrough or major finding about cancer. One headline tells us certain foods may increase our risk for cancer, while another study and story may dispute that evidence. Keeping up with this kind of news helps you remain an "active" rather than a "passive" consumer, but keep in mind that scientific knowledge about what puts us at risk for cancer evolves constantly. Never hesitate to raise questions with your health care professionals about your risk for cancer based on current evidence.

Reduce your risk of exposure to known cancer-causing agents. We all look forward to the day when we will know for certain what causes cancer. Two very difficult cancers are largely, though not always, caused by lifestyle choices - lung cancer and skin cancer. You can lessen your risk of developing these cancers by not smoking or using tobacco products and by limiting sun exposure. Guidelines regarding screening for the most common cancers are constantly evolving. Check with your physician to determine how the most current evidence regarding screening for breast, prostate, lung and colorectal cancer may apply to you. (You can also contact Hope Cancer Resources' health educators, Casey Shelor or Sandy Prince. They can provide information and printed materials to help you understand the latest screening recommendations for various types of cancer.)

History is not destiny. If you have a family history of cancer, ask a health professional what role genetics or other risk factors may apply to your particular health profile. Understanding "relative risk" versus "actual risk" marks an important distinction when dealing with genetic or heritable risk factors for cancer. Note: If you are diagnosed with breast cancer and are interested in learning more about genetic testing for the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 genes, contact our health educators for information.

Know and trust your body and your instincts. See your physician with any unusual symptoms that do not clear up in two weeks' time. If you are unsatisfied or instinctively sense that something is wrong, seek another opinion if possible.

(c)2013 National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be reproduced, displayed, modified or distributed without the express prior written permission of the copyright holder. For permission, contact

Monday, August 16, 2010

Been There, Done That...

Imagine that you have recently been diagnosed with cancer and you have noticed that your usually close friends are starting to become infrequent acquaintances.  What if your friends and family seem to expect you to remain upbeat and optimistic, but you are not feeling that way?  Or what if you feel like you've leaned on them so much already... you just can't burden them anymore with your sometimes obsessive need to talk about your diagnosis.

For a cancer patient just starting down the road through treatments to recovery, it's helpful to talk to a compassionate and professional social worker who has the ability to calm your fears and explain what's to come.  Our social workers and patient assistance programs are an important part of what we do at Hope Cancer Resources and, for many patients, they are enough.  But sometimes a patient benefits even more from sharing their experience with someone who has already been through it themselves.  That's when our "Been There" volunteer program can become an additional resource.

"Been There" is a local network of cancer survivors who volunteer to offer their time and an understanding ear for newly diagnosed cancer patients.  Because each volunteer is a survivor, they probably experienced similar feelings and had some of the same questions and concerns during their own cancer journey.  The program provides an outlet for the patient to express all of their emotions - even negative ones -  without fear of upsetting loved-ones and caregivers.  The volunteers are available to help with non-medical questions using layman's terms, and conversations are kept strictly confidential.

The program is managed by one of our licensed social workers, Christy Scarrow, who manages our volunteer programs.  Christy matches patients who request the service with a volunteer who has a close match to their diagnosis or personal situation (single parent, elderly, etc...).  

If you know someone who might benefit from this service, or are interested in becoming a volunteer, contact Christy at 479-361-5847 for more information.