A mesothelioma diagnosis may come as a shock, and it’s common for victims to find themselves confused. It’s easy to feel lost and alone, but you can make a lot of progress by asking the right questions. Good information can help you regain your footing and start on the path forward.
As the American Cancer Society notes, you can generally divide your questions into four groups. These include questions about your diagnosis, deciding on a treatment plan, participating in treatment and follow-up care.
Asking about your diagnosis
Your mesothelioma diagnosis can mean very different things depending on its stage, location and cell structure. There’s more than one type of mesothelioma, and it’s important to get the full story of your diagnosis. That means asking:
- What type of mesothelioma do I have?
- Where is it located?
- Has the cancer spread from its original location?
- What is the cell type?
- What is my prognosis?
When you ask these questions, especially about your prognosis, you want to remember that mesothelioma statistics aren’t exact. They indicate the ranges and averages for others who have had the disease. Your situation is unique.
Deciding on a treatment plan
To get the most from your treatment, you want to be fully invested in it. Accordingly, there are a wide range of questions you can ask about your treatment options to ensure you proceed with confidence:
- What are my treatment options?
- Might it be possible to remove my tumor through surgery?
- Are there any clinical trials for which I may qualify?
- What are the goals of each possible treatment?
- What are the typical outcomes?
- What are the side effects?
- How else might the treatment affect my daily life?
- What would I need to do to make this treatment most effective?
- How soon would I begin?
- Who would lead the treatment?
- How long would it last?
- Where could I get a second opinion if I wanted one?
At this point, there is no known cure for mesothelioma. Most treatments aim to slow its progress, buying you more time and improving your quality of life. In some cases, surgeons may be able to remove the cancer cells, but even when the surgeons cannot rid your body of the disease, studies have shown that aggressive treatments often lead to better long-term outcomes.
Making the most of your treatment
Once you settle on a treatment plan, you’ll want to remain in contact with your doctor. You’ll also want to know whether it’s working. This means asking:
- How will I know if my treatment is working?
- What symptoms do I need to watch out for?
- Who can I reach for assistance at night, on the weekends and holidays?
- How will you monitor my progress?
- Will my treatment limit any of my regular activities? If so, how?
Ideally, you will complete your treatment and settle into your new normal. However, this will likely differ from your old normal. You can get a better idea of what the future may hold by asking:
- What sort of follow-up might I need after treatment?
- What long-term or lingering side effects might I experience?
- What tests should I expect to take?
Additionally, you may have questions that don’t directly address your health. It’s important to ask these questions, as well. If your doctor cannot answer any of them, they may point you in the right direction:
- What mental health and support services are available to me?
- How do I talk to my friends, family and co-workers about my diagnosis?
- How can I afford my treatment and support services?
It’s important to address this last question as soon as possible. While your health is the most important thing, you do not want to suffer uncertainty about your finances.
You are not alone
It’s easy to feel cut off and alone after receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis. In fact, the feeling is common to many victims. However, the truth is that you are not alone. Receiving your diagnosis is hard, frightening and confusing, but with each question you ask, you reach out, make a connection and find your way back to a more recognizable state of being.