A diagnosis of cancer can leave you and your loved ones feeling uncertain, anxious and overwhelmed, especially if you are at risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE). There are important treatment decisions to make, emotional concerns to manage, and insurance and financial paperwork to organize, among other practical concerns.
It is helpful to keep in mind that there are many sources of information and support for people concerned about their risk of VTE. By learning about how to prevent an treat venous thromboembolism, communicating with your health care team, and surrounding yourself with a support network, you will be better able to manage your VTE and experience a better quality of life.
Understanding Your Diagnosis and Treatment Plan
Venous thromboembolism (VTE) refers to a blood clot in a vein. People with cancer are more likely to develop blood clots, compared with the general population. Therefore, it is important to understand what VTE is, if you are at risk, and how VTE can be prevented and treated.
There are two types of VTE. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in a major vein that leads to the heart. DVT may cause discomfort, and should be monitored and treated to ensure it does not progress. Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a blood clot in the lung, which can be life-threatening.
VTE is more closely associated with certain tumor types in certain locations. For example, it is more commonly seen in individuals who have widespread tumors, and those who are currently undergoing treatment. Taking certain medications can also increase your risk of blood clots. Ask your doctor about whether you are at risk for VTE, what can be done to prevent it, and how to recognize symptoms.
It’s important to know that people who have been diagnosed with cancer can be at risk for VTE after successful treatment, even years after treatment has ended.
The Importance of Communicating with Your Health care Team
Because VTE is a complex condition, good communication between you and your health care team is key. Your oncologist, nurses, and other members of your health care team work together to prevent and treat VTE. Since medical appointments are the main time you will interact with your team, being as prepared as possible for these visits is important. It will help ensure that you understand your diagnosis and treatment, get answers to your questions, and feel more satisfied with your overall care. Read CancerCare’s fact sheet, “‘Doctor, Can We Talk?’: Tips for Communicating With Your Health Care Team,” to learn how you can communicate more effectively with your heath care team.
While cancer can present many challenges, keep in mind that you do not need to cope with this diagnosis on your own. Your friends and family are important sources of strength and support. There are also many local and national support services available to assist you.
Financial Assistance. There are many organizations that provide help with medical billing, insurance coverage, and reimbursement issues. There is also financial assistance available to help people who cannot afford the cost of their medications. Good places to start your research are the websites of the Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition (www.cancerfac.org) and the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (www.pparx.org).
Benefits and Entitlements. Local and county government agencies can give you information on Social Security, state disability, Medicaid, income maintenance, the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and food stamps. Check your local phone directory for listings.
Housing/Lodging. The Hope Lodge of the American Cancer Society, the National Association of Hospital Hospitality Houses (www.nahhh.org), and other organizations provide temporary lodging for families of a patient who needs to travel far from their home for treatment. Joe’s House is a nonprofit organization that offers an online database with lodging information near cancer treatment centers across the U.S. To learn more, visit www.joeshouse.org.
Getting Emotional Support
Adjusting to and finding ways to cope with a cancer diagnosis is an important part of healing, along with treatment. There are many organizations, such as CancerCare, that provide support services to help people affected by cancer. Individual counseling is available to help you learn ways to cope with the emotions and challenges raised by your diagnosis. Support groups can connect you with other people in a similar situation in a safe, supportive environment. Cancer affects the whole person and their loved ones, so it’s important to create a support network as part of managing your care.