Be your own advocate: Communicate with your healthcare team
(NC) When diagnosed with cancer, many people feel frightened, angry or overwhelmed. But they also feel the need to fight – to conquer the cancer and get back to their regular life. If you have cancer, effective communication with your healthcare team can help you better understand the treatment process, possible side effects, and when to report symptoms.
“You receive an overwhelming amount of information when you're first diagnosed. The impact of treatment and its side effects aren't always what you might expect,” said Juliette Inglis, a breast cancer survivor living in Alberta. “Throughout my journey, I learned that not only is education extremely important, but you also need to advocate for yourself and have an open dialogue with your healthcare team to ensure you receive the best possible care.”
While a cancer diagnosis itself can be very stressful, the side effects caused by chemotherapy treatment can be an additional cause for anxiety. Common side effects of chemotherapy include hair loss, fatigue, appetite changes, and nausea; however, less visible side effects may also occur and patients need to be educated on how best to prevent and manage them.
Febrile neutropenia (FN) – a side effect marked by fever, a low white blood cell count, and often complicated by infection – can lead to hospitalization as well as affect your chemotherapy treatment plan. To reduce the risk of and manage febrile neutropenia, your doctor may prescribe treatment with a white blood cell growth factor, also known as a granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF). CSFs stimulate the bone marrow to make more white blood cells, boosting the white blood cell count and helping to reduce the risk of infection and FN.
Discussing prevention and management strategies with your healthcare team will help you prepare for treatment so that you can focus on fighting the cancer, not managing the side effects.
“Knowledge can help you gain a sense of control in your treatment journey, so learning all you can about your cancer treatment and what side effects you might expect can make a tremendous difference,” said Dr. Sandy Sehdev, oncologist at William Osler Health Centre in Brampton, Ontario.
For more information about the cancer journey, including treatment information, visit www.chemoready.ca.
Topics to discuss with your healthcare team:
• What to expect during treatment
• How long your treatment will be and how often you will have to visit the clinic
• Support services/groups and education sessions
• When to call the emergency hotline number
• Side effects: what they are and how to manage them
• Insurance: advise your doctor if you have private insurance coverage
• Any questions you may have regarding your treatment
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