7 Tips To Weather The Storm: How To Survive Cancer

Things You Need to Know To Increase Your Odds Of Surviving Cancer

Doctor standing next to patient undergoing medical treatment in outpatient clinic. Credit: Caiaimage/Martin Barraud/Getty Images

You often hear cancer described as a "battle" where you have to "fight" to survive. But since the "fight" is never fair, exactly how does an individual survive cancer?

Unfortunately there are never any certainties when it comes to cancer and no set plan for survival, but there are certain steps you can take that may improve your odds and put you one step ahead of your "opponent". Listed below are 7 ways that you can fight back in hopes of surviving cancer:

1. Early Detection Is Crucial

A critical part of surviving cancer is early detection. The earlier the disease is diagnosed, the better your chances for remission or long-term survival. In order to survive cancer, be aware of your body, your symptoms and what feels normal or not for your body. Don't skip checkups at the doctor's office and don't ignore warning signs from your body. If you feel there is something wrong with you, there probably is. Don’t ignore early warning signs and don’t be in denial. 

2. Know Your Cancer Risks And Take Action

Cancer can be the result of genetic mutations, viruses, or environmental carcinogens. By now, we all know the dangers of smoking and being exposed to harmful chemicals. But there are lots of other things that can cause cancer. The Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention offers an interactive tool to help you determine your level of risk for 12 different types of cancer.

Knowing what can put you at risk for illness, comorbidities and cancers, can help you assess your need to take immediate action. Stop smoking, clean up your diet, exercise, move to a new place or do anything else you need to do to ensure your health is your number one priority.

3. See An Oncologist Or Better Yet, A Specialist

This point may seem obvious to most people, but it’s not to everyone.

There are millions of cancer patients that are being treated by surgeons, internists, family practitioners, and other healthcare providers. You really should try to be seen by an oncologist. The American Society of Clinical Oncology can help you find an oncologist or specialist. The American Society of Hematology will help you find a doctor if you have a blood cancer. Specialists are most likely to be aware of current treatment options and clinical trials that will be of specific benefit to you.

4. Use New Treatment Option Tools

Take advantage of the free, treatment option tools like the ones offered by the American Cancer Society and EmmiSolutions. These decision-making tools can help you learn which treatment options are right for you. What are the pros and cons of each? You'll get information that's personalized to your unique clinical situation, so you'll spend less time wading through irrelevant articles.

5. Find A Medical Team That Specializes In Your Disease 

Is not always possible to find a specialized center, hospital or medical team, but do your research and feel confident in their abilities.

If you are going to do a bone marrow or a stem cell transplant, try to find a hospital that does a lot of transplants for patients with your disease. Some transplant centers specialize in certain diseases and The National Marrow Donor Program maintains a database of transplant centers and provides detailed information about each centers program. Ask your medical team about support groups and other resources that may me specific to your illness.

6. Take Advantage Of The Vast Amount Of Resources Available

The amount of information and support for cancer patients is astounding. You can get free educational materials, emotional support, financial aid, assistance with insurance issues, help with your physical appearance, dietary recommendations, you name it. Perhaps the two most comprehensive cancer Web sites in the world are the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute.

7. Be Truly Committed to Your Treatment

Whatever clinical trial or treatment plan you and your doctor agree on, stay committed to it and give it your all. A number of patients sometimes drop out of their treatment protocol for one reason or another. Others will continue to still smoke on the sly. Many patients don’t take all of their medications everyday or follow the recommendations for avoiding infection. You have to believe in yourself, your doctor, and your treatment if you truly want to get better. It’s your primary responsibility, not anyone else’s.

Continue Reading