a man doing research after a prostate cancer diagnosis

What You Need to Know After Getting a Cancer Diagnosis

Getting a cancer diagnosis can be devastating. I know it was for me when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It hit me completely out in left field, like a ton of bricks. As a result, I panicked.

My first thought was that I was going to die. And my second thought was I wanted the cancer to be gone. Therefore, I was about to make a quick and uninformed treatment decision. But I’m thankful my urologist told me to slow down.

Being urged to slow down

In fact, he said we didn’t have enough information to make a decision. I still needed further testing. We didn’t know the stage and the Gleason score that indicates cancer aggressiveness. We didn’t even know if the cancer had yet spread.

More importantly, he pointed out many treatments are available to consider once we have all the facts. And depending on test results, active surveillance might be an option. A process to avoid or delay treatment until tests indicate cancer is on the move. And above all, he recommended seeking multiple opinions before making a treatment decision.

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I was in shock and not thinking clearly

I didn’t recognize it then, but on reflection, I was in shock and not thinking clearly. Therefore, I think the first thing to do after a diagnosis is to allow yourself enough time to recover from the initial shock. And resist the urge to rush, especially when you do not have all the facts regarding your specific case.

I now understand that my brain couldn’t process all the information at the time without a sound mind. Therefore, giving myself time to accept the diagnosis was critical before moving forward. Please ensure you give yourself enough time before you make any decisions.

To learn more about how not to make a decision, please read my article “Prostate Cancer and How Not to Make a Decision.”

Potential next steps after a diagnosis

Ask the doctor questions

Once you have had time to clear your mind, I think it’s vital to understand your test results and ask questions if anything is unclear. Once I was able to think more clearly, I was anxious to learn more about my cancer. I must have asked my urologist dozens and dozens of questions. And I’m forever grateful that he took the time to answer every single one to my satisfaction. Please consider changing urologists if you are uncomfortable with any of their answers or lack thereof.

Talk to loved ones, if you feel comfortable

Next, consider opening a two-way conversation with your loved ones or healthcare team. I know for me, talking about my cancer diagnosis was not on my mind. In actual fact, I had no plans to talk about it. I didn’t want people to know, not even my spouse. But I soon realized talking about it was incredibly therapeutic. And the more I shared, the less alone and afraid I felt. And by including my spouse, we formed a closer and stronger bond.

Consider a support group

Consider joining a cancer support group and speaking with others who have cancer. At first, I was against joining a support group, as I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. I must admit that walking through the door to attend my first meeting was extremely difficult. But I’m glad I joined, as it was a healing process.

There was no pressure to talk about my diagnosis, and it turned out to be a wonderful experience. I’ve since made several new friends in the group, and we don’t always talk about cancer. It’s very comforting to know we are not alone.

Research different treatment options

Finally, once you have had a chance to understand your specific case, it’s critical to research the many different treatment options available and to seek multiple opinions. Think about the side effects of treatment and what’s important to you. It’s a personal decision, and you need to understand the risks with each treatment option.

Remember your mental health

And don’t forget about your mental and emotional health. Getting a cancer diagnosis is stressful enough, and you may need to find healthy ways to cope. To learn more about my coping mechanisms, please read my article “Prostate Cancer and My Coping Mechanisms.”

Information is power

Information is power, and I found that the more I learned, the more empowered I felt. I must have read at least 30-40 books on cancer and hundreds of websites. I’m not suggesting you do the same, but for me, I became obsessed. However, the more you know about your diagnosis and treatment options, the better position you will be to make an informed decision.

In conclusion, please realize that every case is different. And while one treatment option may work for one, it may not work for another. All treatment options can be viable depending on several factors. Including, but not limited to, your test results, age, general health, how far cancer has invaded, and the experience of your healthcare team. I wish you every success.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The ProstateCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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