If you or a loved one have just heard the diagnosis of "cancer," you naturally have many, many questions. Below, we've collected information and resources for your use on this journey.
Cancer - what's the risk?
Did you know that 11.1 million Americans have a history of cancer? That's 11.1million survivors! Survival rates are improving all of the time, and have reached an all-time high.
Our risk for developing cancer increases as we age; all cancers involve a malfunction of genes that control cell growth and division. About 5% of cancers are strongly hereditary, but most cancers are a result of genetic damage that occurs during one's lifetime. The causes of that damage may result from internal factors, such as hormones, or external factors, such as chemicals, tobacco, and sunlight.
How many people will get cancer this year?
The American Cancer Society estimates that 60,960 Illinoisans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2009. In the United States, they estimate that 1,479,350 people will have a new cancer diagnosis in 2009.
How is cancer treated?
Cancer is treated by surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormones, and/or immunotherapy. Treatment generally requires more than one type of treatment like surgery with radiation or drugs, etc. To decide on the best treatment for a given patient, initial testing is done to make the diagnosis and determine how far the disease has progressed. Based on this the treatment is planned. The response of disease to treatment is assessed from time to time. The treatment generally needs to be given over a period of time. Once the planned treatment is completed, cancer patients need regular follow-up. It is important that you talk openly with your physician about your treatment options. Websites such as www.cancer.org have great resources to help you get the conversation started (search for "treatment decisions").
I just got a cancer diagnosis. What next?
People often enter a "shock phase" after a cancer diagnosis -- life has suddenly and profoundly changed, and you're likely to feel a great deal of emotional turmoil. Beyond that initial stage, however, is a practical necessity to develop a plan to fight this cancer, and win.
Here are some things you can do:
* Find a partner - pick someone (a spouse, family member, or close friend) with whom you can talk openly. No one can go through cancer alone.
* Get organized. Start a notebook or binder to coordinate your doctors' information, treatment schedules, and other records. St. Mary's Good Samaritan is pleased to offer a free journal that can help you with this. If you'd like a free personal care journal "Guiding You Through Cancer," please call, toll free, 1-888-257-6098.
* Get informed. Take steps to learn more about yoru cancer diagnosis and treatment options, but do it a pace that is comfortable for you. Lots of information is comforting to some people, but can be overwhelming for others. Be sure that when you're using the web for research that you only use trustworthy sources. Our list below is a good start.
* Take steps to get support. Support from family and friends is vital, but you might also seek the support of a Cancer Support Group. St. Mary's Good Samaritan offers several groups. See our Community Health Programs page for more information: http://www.smgsi.com/Pages/CommunityPrograms.aspx
Is cancer preventable?
To a large extent, YES! Around 50% of cancers are related to the use of tobacco, so those cancers can be prevented. If you smoke, please, please stop!
What can I do to prevent cancer?
· Avoid tobacco and alcohol
· Eat healthy foods
· Engage in regular physical activity
· Be aware of your body so that you can detect any changes early
Where can I go to read more?
www.cancer.org The American Cancer Society
www.cancer.gov The National Cancer Institute
www.breastcancerinfo.com A service of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
www.jco.org Official Journal of American Society of Clinical Oncology
What about clinical trials?
St. Mary's Good Samaritan works in partnership with St. John's Mercy in St. Louis to offer the latest options in cancer treatment. We understand that you want to know all of your treatment options. If you are a candidate for a clinical trial, we will be happy to let you know more about research studies that are available. As the patient, the decision whether or not to participate is entirely yours.