Making Treatment Decisions
After a cancer diagnosis, patients and their families have many decisions to make in a short time. Where do I go for treatment? What costs will be covered by insurance? What about travel expenses? As a cancer patient, you are urged to take an active role in your care, and make treatment decisions that are best for you and your loved ones.
Consider the following issues before choosing a cancer treatment.
If you have been diagnosed with cancer by your primary care physician, it is wise to get a second opinion from a cancer specialist. In fact, many health insurance plans require a second opinion before covering some treatment costs. If the specialist agrees with the first diagnosis, they can let you know the available treatment options for your cancer.
A prognosis is a cancer specialist's best estimate of how your disease will respond to treatment, and what your life expectancy may be. Some patients whose cancer is discovered in the early stages may only need minor treatment. Others with advanced cancer may have few treatment options, if any, or may have an aggressive cancer with a low survival rate.
Patients who receive the worst news may proceed with treatment anyway; others may refuse treatment. Whatever decision you make, consider the wishes of loved ones, and talk it over with your cancer care team.
Because cancer treatment involves sophisticated techniques, machinery and medicine, it can be very expensive. Some treatments require a hospital stay of one night or more, which adds on to the overall cost. Health insurance and managed care plans rarely cover all the costs of cancer treatment, so it’s important to find out what is and is not covered by your policy. Uncovered expenses are the patient’s responsibility.
It is wise to prepare legal documents that spell out how your cancer treatments and personal affairs should be handled if you become unable to make decisions. Advance directives include documents like living wills, medical power of attorney, and do-not-resuscitate orders.
Some newly-diagnosed patients may be eligible to join a clinical trial. These carefully controlled studies test new drugs or treatments that may be as good or better than standard care. Clinical trials have provided new hope for some people whose cancer has not responded to traditional treatments. MD Anderson has hundreds of clinical trials underway at any given time.
MD Anderson accepts both self-referrals from prospective patients and physician referrals.