It's common to feel overwhelmed when you first receive a diagnosis of cancer. One of the most important things you can do during the course of your cancer treatment is to practice good communication with your cancer care team — becoming more informed about your diagnosis and taking charge of determining your own course of treatment helps you feel more in control of the situation. To help you communicate with your care team, here are three important questions to ask after your cancer diagnosis.

1. What Treatment Options Are Available? What Are Their Expected Side Effects and Outcomes?

There are a number of cancer treatments available for most types of cancer, including radiation therapy, surgery, and chemotherapy. Some cancers, such as prostate cancer, may even simply be monitored instead of treated due to how slow it progresses.

Every treatment has a different side effect profile and expected outcome. It's important to not feel forced into choosing one specific form of treatment, such as chemotherapy, if others are available to treat your cancer — you're always the one that remains in charge of creating your cancer care plan. You need to weigh the potential side effects of treatment versus what your cancer care team expects the outcome of the treatment to be. For example, you may want to avoid risking the potential side effects of chemotherapy and choose radiation therapy instead, even though it may not be as effective. Ask your care team about all of the treatment options available to you so that you can make an informed decision about your care.

2. What Lifestyle Changes Should Be Made to Improve Treatment Outcomes?

While it's easy to feel overwhelmed when you're working with so many medical professionals, you remain one of the most important members of your cancer care team. Ask your care team what lifestyle changes you can make in order to improve your odds of a successful treatment — this may include adding light exercise to your routine, changing your diet, or quitting smoking. You may also be encouraged to try relaxation exercises such as meditation. This can return your sense of personal agency in cancer treatment as well as improving the chances that treatment will be successful.

3. What's the Best Way to Look Up More Information About Your Diagnosis?

Some patients want to look up information about their cancer on their own, whereas others would rather not know. If you're one of the former, it's a good idea to ask your care team what resources you should use and how to look up information that's pertinent to you. This is important because cancers tend to be generalized — for example, all cancers that affect the prostate are usually referred to as prostate cancer. When you look up information about your cancer, you'll need to keep in mind the exact diagnosis that you received, including its stage and the abnormality of your biopsy results. This helps you avoid reading information that's not pertinent to your cancer and becoming unnecessarily anxious about what may happen.

While receiving a cancer diagnosis is often overwhelming, good communication with your cancer care team will definitely help you to feel more in control of your situation. Additionally, if you feel that your care team is not giving you the attention you deserve and helping you with your questions, you may want to consider finding a different care team that will listen to your concerns. You should always feel that you're the one in control of your treatment.

For more information, reach out to cancer treatment centers in your area.