Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Being a Cancer Treatment Partner

Recently my wife was asked to advise one of our friends about the process of cancer treatment.    As I wrote in my 2011 post about our family's experience with cancer, the treatment involves everyone close to the patient.   Here are Kathy's notes for families of cancer patients, which I post in the hope that they will help others.

"I promised  to pencil out tips for how you can best serve as a cancer treatment partner.

Here is a great resource to read on the general way to help.

At the treatment planning visit, you should take notes so the patient can remember things later more clearly. Also, if you have a list of questions the patient specifically wants answered, you can remind her of them if she forgets to ask her doctor.

You will want the details of the final staging results, but  have found that it is not useful to focus too hard on longevity curves and results because your individual case will follow its own course. You already take the diagnosis seriously.

Confirm the details of the radiation plan.
Ask what the side effects are.   Long term risks.
Confirm the details of the chemotherapy plan.
Do you need a port?
Ask what the side effects are of your chemotherapy. Long term risks.
Do you need to look at clinical trials?
Ask about the specific drugs used for the supportive/palliative part. Palliative is the word to define the pain relief team and elements that relieve any discomfort you have from the tumor or the therapies.
Is there anything you should not take while on their treatment (like ibuprofen or any other prescriptions, or food/vitamin)
One of my own chemo therapies involved intravenous Benadryl so I could not drive myself home during that one. So ask if there are any guidelines for your specific treatment.
Ask about any risks of neuropathy (numbness in hands and feet) from chemotherapy, and what dialog or change in treatment plan they expect if you should experience neuropathy. Ask about any plan or need to boost white blood counts with therapies such as Neulasta. Connected to that is any discussion of increased risk of catching viruses or infections due to a suppressed immune system.
If you have questions about surgery and why they do not recommend it - simply ask why they find it to be not recommended in your specific case.
Ask about alternative and supportive therapies (nutrition/massage/etc)

After this initial treatment, what tests will be performed to evaluate the degree of remission?
What are the current tumor and post treatment impacts on function?
Are there ongoing post treatment medications you will have to take. Six month, one year followup plan, and beyond.

 Only use a second opinion if the treatment plan does not align with your own comfort zone or desires."

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