Your Initial Consultation: Understanding Your Health History
Your first consultation is an opportunity for you and your doctor to get to know each other, for your doctor to learn more about your medical history and diagnosis, and for you to ask questions about your treatment options. Try to collect all your medical records and bring them with you to the appointment with your doctor (see Consultation Checklist). The nurse will first collect information about your health history from you to facilitate your conversation with the doctor. Although it is not required, family members and friends may also be present during the initial consultation. After taking into account the type and stage of your cancer, as well as information from you, your personal doctor and other specialists, such as our physicians at Vantage Oncology, will recommend the optimal course of treatment for you.
Developing a Treatment Plan
A treatment plan is a roadmap that will guide your cancer care. Treatment planning requires extensive preparation and coordination between oncology specialists. Sometimes, additional diagnostics and testing may be required to ensure that the extent of cancer (or stage of cancer) has been correctly determined. The stage of cancer is one of the most important factors considered when developing a treatment plan.
Imaging tests, like CT scans, may be needed to identify the cancer and determine its exact location and proximity to other organs. This information is essential in planning for surgery or radiation, so healthy organs and tissues can be avoided if at all possible. If radiation therapy is a part of the treatment plan, other related specialists such as dosimetrists and physicists may work with the radiation oncologist to ensure that tumors are targeted precisely and normal tissues are avoided.
If your treatment plan includes chemotherapy or immunotherapy, a medical oncologist will become involved in your care. Medical oncologists will prescribe drugs that can most effectively slow down the growth of the tumor or shrink it. The medical oncologist may require additional tests to determine whether or not your cancer will respond to specific drugs. After a treatment plan has been developed, you may ask for a written summary of the plan.
Once treatment planning is complete, you will be given a schedule for your treatment. Surgery is often one of the first treatment options and if you are a candidate for surgery a date for surgery will be set. Most other types of treatment, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy are administered daily or weekly. It is important that you receive all planned treatments to ensure that you receive the maximum possible benefit from treatment. It is important that you discuss any time off from treatment, such as a vacation, with your physician team before treatment is scheduled.
With some types of treatment, such as surgery, you may need assistance with transportation after the procedure. With other treatment options, such as chemotherapy, you may experience side effects that include fatigue, nausea, or vomiting. Your doctor or nurse will discuss with you the side effects that are most common with your treatment plan. It is important to talk to your doctors about any adverse effects that you are experiencing; they may prescribe medicines to provide you with relief.
During and After Treatment
During treatment and after its completion, you will undergo tests to check the treatment’s efficacy. After treatment is completed, you will come back to the clinic periodically for additional tests and monitoring.