A diagnosis of thyroid cancer can leave you and your loved ones feeling uncertain, anxious and overwhelmed. Your doctors’ appointments will provide the best opportunity to speak with members of your health care team. Getting as much information as you can about the goals of your treatment and how it will affect your life will help you feel more satisfied with your care.
The Importance of Communicating With Your Health Care Team
Your team of doctors, nurses and social workers are valuable sources of support as you cope with a cancer diagnosis. Good communication with your doctor will help improve the quality of the care you receive. It’s a good idea to bring a list of questions to the appointment and write down the doctor’s responses. In addition, if possible, bring someone with you to any appointment; another set of ears can help reduce confusion. For more information on talking with your doctor, read CancerCare’s booklet titled, “Communicating with Your Health Care Team.”
Questions that You May Want to Ask Your Health Care Team
Since I’ve been diagnosed, I’ve been overwhelmed. How can I better cope with my diagnosis? A cancer diagnosis turns a person’s world upside down emotionally, financially and physically. Your team of doctors, nurses and social workers are valuable sources of support as you cope with a cancer diagnosis. Oncology social workers are licensed professionals who counsel people affected by cancer, providing emotional support and helping people access practical assistance. CancerCare’s oncology social workers provide individual counseling, support groups and locate services face-to-face, online or on the telephone, free of charge. To learn more, visit www.cancercare.org or call 800-813-HOPE (4673).
What type of thyroid cancer do I have? Thyroid cancer begins in the thyroid gland, which is located in the front of the neck. Thyroid cancer starts when the cells in the thyroid begin to change and grow uncontrollably, forming a tumor (also called a nodule), which can be either cancerous or benign. The main types of thyroid cancer are papillary thyroid cancer, follicular thyroid cancer, medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) and anaplastic thyroid cancer.
What stage is my tumor? A tumor’s stage refers to its size and extent of spread in the body—e.g., whether it has spread to lymph nodes or other organs. Cancer that has spread to other organs is called metastatic cancer. A cancer’s stage is often denoted by a Roman numeral (I, II, III or IV). The higher the numeral, the more the cancer has spread within the body.
What is my recommended treatment plan? Treatment options for thyroid cancer include surgery, radiation iodine and targeted therapies. Talk to your health care team about treatment option is best for you.
What side effects can I experience throughout my treatment plan? A key to managing side effects is to be aware of them and communicate with your health care team when they arise. Your health care team can help you cope with side effects of thyroid cancer treatment.
Should I change my diet? It’s important to talk with your health care team, both during and after treatment, about your diet. Find out if your doctor has a registered dietitian (RD) on staff or can recommend one. RDs are experts in diet and nutrition and can advise you about eating right.
I’m worried about the cost of my cancer treatment. Where can I find financial assistance? The financial costs associated with cancer are often overwhelming, even with insurance. Read CancerCare’s fact sheet titled, “Sources of Financial Assistance” for reliable resources. You can also visit CancerCare’s searchable, online database of financial and practical assistance guide at www.cancercare.org/helpinghand. This comprehensive online tool features up-to-date contact information and descriptions for hundreds of national and regional organizations offering financial help to people with cancer.
Should I seek a second opinion? Usually with a new diagnosis there is a period of time, depending on the cancer type and stage, before treatment begins. During this time, getting a second opinion may help give you a peace of mind or an alternative treatment possibility. Talk to your health care team and read CancerCare’s “When to Get a Second Opinion” fact sheet for more information.
Is there a clinical trial I can participate in? If so, will it be covered by my insurance? Clinical trials are the standard by which we measure the worth of new treatments and the quality of life of patients as they receive those treatments. For this reason, doctors and researchers urge people with cancer to take part in clinical trials. Read CancerCare’s “Clinical Trials: What You Need to Know” fact sheet to learn more information on clinical trials.