One of the hardest things that I have had to do was decide what kind of cancer treatment I wanted to receive if any. There were so many things to consider. There were so many things to learn about the treatments that were available and possible alternatives to those treatments. What are the pros? What are the cons? What are the side effects? Are there alternative options? I look back at that time and I realize that for me it truly came down to quality of life versus quantity of life and how I could get the best of both worlds if possible.
Prior to learning as much as I could about the treatments available and talking them over with my oncologist and family, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I wanted my life to look after cancer. Due to my age, naturally, I wanted to live a longer life, but I did not want to become a prisoner of pain and not being able to live a life of freedom to function as I did prior to cancer.
The next question was could my cancer be cured? That is exactly what I was hoping for so I was interested in treatments that would help me reach that goal. But what was I willing to endure for a cure? That was another question that I had to ask myself. Understanding my type of cancer and stage really helped me to focus on treatments that were more likely to work. I put a lot of thought and energy into it because I did not want to regret my decision later.
Knowing where to start the decision-making process is a challenge for many people. Below are a few steps to help you get started.
Understand your diagnosis. Ask your health care team about your diagnosis. If you do research online look for credible sources.
Know and understand your options.
Get clear about the goals of treatment. Do you want to be cured? Do you want to control cancer growth by slowing it down or stopping it?
Learn about the side effects of each treatment option. Some treatment options can cause long-term side effects, or late effects, that might develop months or even years after treatment. Talk with your health care team about the possible long-term effects of each treatment option and how they are managed. (quality of life vs. quantity of life)
Consider the pros and cons of each treatment option.
Get a second or third opinion from another oncologist.
Consider the costs related to your treatment options. Your health care team can help you identify ways to manage the cost or find organizations that can provide some form of financial support.
Discuss your treatment decision with people that you trust. They may present a different perspective and give you some other things to consider that you may not have thought about.
There is not a crystal ball that can tell you which treatment option is 100% the best option for you. However, being a part of creating your treatment plan may give you more confidence and a greater peace of mind so that you can focus on healing.