Gathering Information and Making Decisions
Making decisions about your cancer treatment starts by remembering that you have a choice in your attitude about cancer. Clearly, there is a great deal of emotion swirling about at these times and you must keep in mind that how you “feel” about your approach is one of many bits of information that will be useful in your decision making process. The other bits of information will come from a combination of conversations with experts and friends and family as well as a great deal of written material. A few ideas to help you gather and organize your decisions are:
Know the details of the cancer diagnosis. First, find out the type of pancreatic cancer you have, its size and location, and if it has spread. Ask about the available treatment options, the success rate of each treatment and what side effects to expect from each. Learn how much time you have to decide on a treatment plan. Without that information, you can't get an accurate understanding of the problem and know what to expect from the treatment.
Organize your information. Start a notebook or binder to coordinate appointments, doctors’ phone numbers, and the information you collect along the way. Take it with you to each medical appointment, and keep notes on your test results and treatment options. Start a running list of questions to ask your doctor on your next visit.
Another helpful tool to organizing yourself is to develop your thoughts into a decision tree. A decision tree is a place to write down your concerns and options and then make choices that are right for you. It can be your master plan. By checking off certain items and prioritizing others, you can decide what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it. This exercise can be comforting because a plan can help restore your sense of control.
Get a second opinion. It's always a good idea to seek a second opinion from an oncologist. You may wish to see someone at a center that specializes in cancer care. In the United States, this might be one of the National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers around the country. Typically these centers are part of a university or large medical center. While second opinions are important, don't waste time by going to six or seven different cancer centers to see several doctors who may all tell you the same thing. If the two opinions are similar, it's very likely that all other cancer specialists will tell you the same thing.
Bring someone with you. Recognize that this is a time of personal crisis, and your ability to retain any meaningful information may be impaired. So bring someone with you — preferably someone who is reliable and knows how to be your advocate. Choose someone you like. It can be helpful to have someone with you to help unscramble the messages.
Finding Information on the Internet. On the Internet, cancer survivors can get information available throughout the world, all at the touch of a few keystrokes on a computer in their home, library, or community center. It can be hard to find your way around the Internet at first. You may need to ask for help. A word of caution: There is a great deal of very helpful, reliable, factual information available on the Internet, but there is also a lot of misinformation. It is important to be sure your sources are reliable and to check information further. The most reliable medical information will come from well-known cancer organizations, research facilities, hospitals, libraries, government agencies, and professional journals.
Talk to your doctor. This may seem obvious but your doctor is your best resource for information and you have to use the limited time you have with him/her in the most effective way. For some suggestions see “Tips for your doctor’s visit”