How to Get the Best Cancer Treatment

By Katherine Hobson

If you hear the C word, it's important not to panic. Instead, take these steps to become a savvy health advocate.

Ask advice
Women who develop breast, colon or lung cancer at an uncommonly young age should usually get more than one opinion, says Richard Wender, M.D., chief cancer control officer with the American Cancer Society. Look for oncologists who specialize in your cancer.

Seek options
Chemotherapy and radiation may not be the best treatment plan for your specific case — don't assume you'll need them. Find out from your physician if any of the newer treatments apply to you. This may involve asking if you need genetic testing for specific mutations.

Find a trial
Look for clinical trials or large open studies of experimental drugs that are not yet available on the market. Ask your doctor if any are being conducted in your area, or at a nearby cancer center, that you might be eligible for. ( also has a clinical trials matching service.)

Look ahead
Picture your post-cancer future. Talk about what you want life to look like after treatment. "Twenty years ago, surviving was the only goal," says Lillie Shockney, R.N., associate professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "That shouldn’t be the case anymore."

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Photo Credit: SELF