Finding out you have cancer is an unexpected, life-changing moment that also affects your loved ones. As such, it's normal to experience a host of feelings -- loss, disbelief, sadness, fear, anxiety, guilt, anger -- after receiving a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Each person copes with the news in a different way, and that's OK.
While a pancreatic cancer diagnosis can be intimidating, there are many resources available to help support you on your journey. Staying informed and bring proactive are important steps in gaining control of your cancer and your life.
Learn All You Can
A supportive cancer care team will encourage you to ask questions and participate in making decisions. Learning as much as you can about your cancer and its treatment should help you feel more in control of your diagnosis and prognosis. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) suggests asking questions about the type of pancreatic cancer, its size and location, where it started, whether it has metastasized, and your treatment options.
Keep Copies of Your Health Records
Ask for copies of your medical records and lab results. You have the right to review and keep copies, as well as have them explained to you. These copies are important when meeting with other health care providers, particularly when obtaining a second opinion. While some health care providers may want new testing, it could save you time and money if you've already had certain tests done.
Get a Second Opinion
Pancreatic cancer is rare, and most general oncologists don't treat this type of cancer. It's important to schedule an appointment with a doctor that specifically specializes in and treats people with pancreatic cancer, says PanCAN. Second opinions are a common part of cancer care. You won't offend your doctor if you seek a second opinion, and doing so may alleviate some anxiety.
Know Your Treatment Options
There are many treatments available for pancreatic cancer, including surgery, radiation chemotherapy, and ablative techniques, says the American Cancer Society (ACS). In some cases, clinical trials may also be an option. These research studies are supervised by the Food and Drug Administration and analyze new treatments or new treatment combinations that could be helpful for people with pancreatic cancer.
Discuss with your oncologists which treatment options are best for your situation, the success rates of each, and the side effects you can expect.
Find Services and Resources
There may be times when your pancreatic cancer diagnosis feels overwhelming. It's a difficult thing to handle, but know you are not alone. One of your most instrumental resources is the oncology social worker at the facility where you're receiving treatment.
The Association of Oncology Social Work explains that an oncology social worker is part of your cancer care team and can assist you and your loved ones with achieving emotional and physical support, arranging for home health care services, applying for additional health care resources, and helping you understand the health care system. This person will be there every step of the way to share in your fears, hopes, and successes, and to be a major ally in your fight with cancer.
Taking time to find new or different ways to live life to the fullest after diagnosis can help you feel better, physically and emotionally, and improve your quality of life. The ACS suggests cooking your favorite meals, spending time with loved ones, attending a support group, watching a movie, meditating, or doing something else you really enjoy. If your doctor approves, start a light exercise program such as stretching, walking, yoga, or swimming. As long as it's safe and healthy, there's absolutely no harm in staying active if you feel able to do so.