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Preparing for Cancer Treatment

How can you get ready for treatment?

You play a key role in getting ready for your cancer treatment. Here are some of the most important things to think about before treatment starts.

Find an oncologist and treatment center

This step is important to everyone with cancer. You want to be sure you get the best care possible. Ask your primary healthcare provider for a referral to an oncologist. This is a healthcare provider who specializes in treating cancer. You can also contact or check the websites of government and professional medical organizations to find cancer specialists near you. These include your state's health department, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), or the American Medical Association.

Make sure you look for a healthcare provider who accepts your health insurance. To help in your search, your plan may already have a list of healthcare providers. Medicare also has a list of healthcare providers who accept Medicare.

Look for a healthcare provider who specializes in treating the type of cancer you have. Find out which hospital the healthcare provider uses. The NCI Cancer Center Program has more than 60 cancer treatment centers across the U.S. that meet its standards of care. You might want to see if there's one near you. The American College of Surgeons and the Joint Commission are 2 other groups that accredit treatment centers. You can search for and learn more about hospitals on their websites.

Get a second opinion

It's common for people diagnosed with cancer to ask another cancer specialist for their opinion. A second opinion can help you be sure your diagnosis and treatment plans are the best choice for you. Or it may give you another treatment choice to think about.  

Healthcare providers who can give you a second opinion can include medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, pathologists, radiologists, and others. Your main healthcare provider can help you get a second opinion. Again, this is common, so don't be afraid to ask.

Find out about your cancer treatment

Your cancer care team will help you understand your diagnosis and treatment. They'll answer your questions. It also helps to learn about the type of cancer you have, as well as your treatment choices. Ask your healthcare provider where you can find more information about cancer.

The NCI, the American Cancer Society, and other cancer- and health-related organizations provide helpful information. Be careful online. There are a lot of websites that don't have accurate information. They may be trying to sell products or scam people. Talk to your team about sources you can trust. And always remember, nothing you find online should take the place of medical advice from your healthcare team. Talk with your team about what you're learning and how it might apply to you.

Find support when you need it

Cancer treatment can be a long and tiring experience. Many people with cancer need help throughout the process. Getting help from others can help you feel better and not so alone. There are support groups for people with cancer and their families in many communities. Online and telephone support groups also make it easy to find others coping with cancer. Oncology nurses, case managers, and social workers are excellent resources for locating support groups.

Talk with your treatment team about what you can do to be ready. To help reduce the stress that tends to come with cancer and cancer treatments:

  • Get support. Seek out friends, family, support groups, or your religious community to help you through this challenging time. They may be able to help with meals, transportation to appointments, emotional support, and care giving.

  • Be aware of your emotional health. Consider seeing a counselor or another mental health professional. Ask your healthcare provider for a referral.

  • Eat a healthy diet. Meet with a dietitian or nutritionist who can help you create a specific plan. Your healthcare provider can refer you.

  • Get regular exercise. Ask your healthcare team what exercise plan is safe for you. Being active may help your mood, energy, and sleep as you enter treatment.

  • Manage your finances. A financial advocate, social worker, or case manager at your health system can help you get around financial and insurance concerns.


Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Sabrina Felson MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Todd Gersten MD
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2023
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