Attention Laurel Patients:  The new Laurel office is open. The address is 7140 Contee Road, Suite 3500, Laurel, MD 20707….Attention Lanham Patients: Our new Largo office will be opening Monday,  June 17th and our Lanham location will be closed permanently. Largo’s address is 9333 Healthcare Way Suite 4100 Largo, MD 20774.

What to do When you Receive a Cancer Diagnosis

If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with cancer, you’re probably filled with questions and concerns about available treatment options, cost of treatment and fears about the future. The cancer care team at Maryland Oncology Hematology is here to offer guidance and answer questions so that you can choose the best way forward.  

How Fast Should I Make Decisions?

It’s important to make good, informed decisions about your cancer treatment without delay. However, don’t act so fast that you miss opportunities to listen to the oncologist’s recommended cancer treatment plan and consider all the options you may have. The first step is typically scheduling an appointment with an oncologist at a cancer center convenient to you.

How Do I Choose a Doctor?

For some patients, a cancer diagnosis is provided by a doctor who is not a cancer specialist, such as your primary care physician or OB/GYN. For other patients, these physicians may suspect cancer, and will refer you to an oncologist for an official diagnosis.

While there are likely going to be quite a few physicians involved in the cancer treatment process, most patients make their first consultation with a medical oncologist . The medical oncologist typically serves the role of leading a patient’s cancer treatment plan. He or she will assess the test results and diagnosis information, and may request additional tests that will determine the stage and other attributes about the cancer. Once the medical oncologist has the information they need, a treatment plan can be created which may include other physicians such as a surgeon, radiation oncologist and any other type of healthcare specialist that may benefit you.

You may have been referred to a specific oncologist by the doctor who diagnosed or first suspected the cancer. We encourage you to review the information available online about the physician and the practice before making a decision. While referral recommendations can be very helpful, it is ultimately your choice as to which doctors you want to see.

To help find the best doctor for you, consider the following questions:

  • Does the doctor accept your insurance? If not, will you be able to afford the cost of your treatment?
  • How far is the office from your house? Certain treatments like radiation and chemotherapy require frequent office visits.
  • How experienced is this doctor in treating your specific cancer type?
  • Does this doctor have admitting privileges at a hospital with expertise in cancer care?
  • Does this doctor have a personality and bedside manner that make you feel comfortable?
  • Is this doctor accepting new patients? How quickly can you get an appointment?

Your First Oncology Appointment

Expect to do a lot of listening during your first appointment. In most cases, the patient or their family member has researched the type of cancer and treatment options using online tools such as our own. However, every patient’s situation is different. While there are some typical cancer treatment protocols, they don’t apply to everyone perfectly.

Your oncologist will spend time explaining what they know up to this point about the type of cancer you have, and they may even be able to talk about the various treatment options that exist. They may not, however, have enough information yet to make a recommendation for a specific treatment plan. This may have to come after reviewing the results of additional tests at a future appointment.

We strongly suggest that you bring a supportive relative or friend to your first appointment. Not only will this person serve as an extra set of ears to make sure you don’t miss any details, he or she will also be able to ask questions you may not think to ask and discuss the appointment with you after it’s over.

The financial team may or may not know at your first appointment what you can expect for treatment costs. This is because they typically have to wait to know which treatment plan is going to be used before financial information is available. As soon as they have the information, you can spend time talking to them about payment options.

Should I get a Second Opinion?

It is only natural that you want to be absolutely certain that you have cancer before beginning treatment. It’s understandable that you may want to get a second opinion on your diagnosis and recommended treatment before making any decisions. There is no harm in doing this, and it will help you feel confident about your diagnosis and treatment.

Our oncologists provide second opinions regularly for patients. Most insurance companies will cover a second opinion assessment, but you should always check with your insurance provider before making an appointment.

Document. Document. Document.

As a cancer patient, you will receive a large amount of important information in a short time. It’s a good idea to take notes during each of your doctor’s appointments. One easy way to stay organized is to purchase a binder that includes paper for notes as well as pockets where you can place information given to you.

Between visits you can jot down questions and concerns that come up so you’ll remember to discuss them with your cancer care team. If you’re worried that you’ll miss important information while you’re taking notes or a written notebook just isn’t ideal for you, you might want to record conversations with your physician (many smartphones have a recording feature) and write down the important information in your notebook later.

Questions to Ask Your Oncologist

When you are diagnosed with cancer, there are certain questions you should ask your doctor so you’ll better understand your illness and what to expect during treatment. We recommend that you write other questions in your cancer notebook so you’ll make sure to ask your oncologist.

Your cancer care team may not know all of the answers to these questions at your first appointment, but once you have a treatment plan in place, you should be able to get through this entire list.

  • What is my exact diagnosis and stage?
  • Will I need more tests?
  • Do I need to change my diet?
  • What are the treatment options for my cancer?
  • What is the goal of treatment–to cure or control my symptoms?
  • Does my cancer treatment plan include surgery?
  • What are the possible risks of treatment?
  • Will cancer treatment affect my daily life?
  • What are the side effects of my treatment options?
  • How long will treatment last?
  • What problems or symptoms should I report right away?
  • What does my future (prognosis) look like, as you see it?
  • Do my siblings or children have an increased risk of developing this type of cancer?
  • Should I exercise during chemotherapy or radiation treatments?
  • Will I need to see other medical or cancer specialists as part of my treatment?

Should I Consider Cancer Clinical Trials?

Clinical trials help uncover various new cancer treatment options for a variety of cancers, and give many patients the opportunity to receive newly developed cancer treatment therapies or investigational drugs not yet available outside the study. Typically a cancer clinical trial isn’t the first or best option for newly diagnosed patients. Talk to your oncologist to determine if you’d be a good candidate for a clinical trial.

Is my Insurance Company Going to Cover my Cancer Treatments?

Financial concerns are common among cancer patients. If you have insurance, your policy will probably cover at least some of your cancer treatment. Every policy is different and every patient’s recommended course of treatment will be unique.

After your cancer diagnosis, contact your insurer and ask for a copy of your medical insurance benefits. You won’t immediately know what your suggested treatment plan will be, but once your oncologist finalizes you individualized treatment plan, you can work with our financial counselors who can help you determine what your insurance will and will not cover.

If you do not have insurance, you may qualify for financial assistance through non-profits or foundations. Our practice can help you explore these options and apply for financial assistance if needed.

Join a Cancer Support Group

We know this is a difficult time, but you can do this. We also know that having support can make a difference. Many hospitals, cancer centers, community groups, and schools offer cancer support groups. American Cancer Society is a great place to search support groups in your area. We have patient resources that our team can recommend for you, and they will help you to stay connected during and after your cancer treatment journey.

Always remember that our team of cancer specialists are here to answer all of your questions and connect you with the resources you’ll need while navigating your cancer treatment journey.