Cancer Diagnosis: What’s Next?
A cancer diagnosis is often profoundly life-changing and feeling shell-shocked is a perfectly normal reaction. However, once the initial shock wears off, deciding what to do next can make all the difference in getting the support and treatment you need towards fighting the disease.
Health professionals associated with cancer care
Doctors who specialise in the study and treatment of cancer are called oncologists. Oncologists are responsible for explaining a cancer diagnosis to a patient, discuss the most appropriate options for treatment, delivery quality care with compassion, and help manage patients through the treatments, symptoms and side effects.
Medical oncologists are doctors who specialise in the treatment of cancer with drugs and chemotherapy, surgical oncologists treat cancer with surgery, and radiation oncologists use radiation to treat cancer. Depending on the characteristics of your case, one of these three treatment routes or a combination thereof will be recommended, as deemed most appropriate.
Many oncologists further specialise in certain areas, such as dermatology (skin cancer specialists), endocrinology (hormone production system), gynaecology (women’s reproductive health), haematology (blood) and paediatric (children and teens) oncology, among others.
In addition, your medical support team will consist of many other professionals, including:
- Oncology nurse specialists: nurses with advanced degrees and clinical practise in various areas of cancer care
- Pathologists and radiologists: doctors who support in the diagnosis and classification of cancers
- Registered dieticians: specialists who monitor your overall nutrition intake, as maintaining a good diet can keep your body fighting fit through your cancer treatment
How do I find a good oncologist?
Finding the right oncologist for you is a critical part of getting the best treatment possible. Every person and case is unique, but here are some important factors for you to consider:
- Start with referrals you trust. Reach out to your primary care doctor, family and friends for trusted recommendations.
- Research credentials & experience. Ensure that your oncologist is certified by local oncology specialist authorities or associations. Researching their history and experience can also give you added confidence and peace of mind that you have made the right selection.
- Great communication. Find a doctor with whom you feel comfortable asking questions, can clearly understand, give you a sense of confidence and provide you with adequate informational support.
- Verify the hospital’s quality & range of services. Doing so will ensure that you receive adequate professional support in the course of your treatment. An easy way to do this is to check if the hospital possesses reputable quality certifications, such as from the Joint Commission International (JCI) and Malaysian Society for Quality in Healthcare (MSQH).
- If you have insurance that covers cancer treatment, check that your chosen doctor and hospital are covered by your policy.
What other resources will I need?
- Find a good hospital that specialises in cancer screening and management to ensure that you have access to the most advanced oncology diagnostic and treatment facilities available.
- Research your diagnosis through the many cancer information centres online or within your local community.
- Ensure you have ample psychological support. Apart from professional therapists and your loved ones, you can explore cancer support groups near you or on online communities that can further help you find the emotional strength for the battle ahead of you.