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Finding out about possible treatments, worry about the loss of fertility, facing pain or knowing whether the cancer is hereditary are the fundamental doubts after learning the diagnosis.

After a diagnosis of cancer, there are a lot of questions the patients need answers to. To know the prognosis of the disease, to learn about the possible treatments, about facing pain, worry about the loss of fertility or knowing whether the tumor is hereditary and may also affect other family members are the most common doubts that come up in the first phases of the disease.

People with cancer tend to get involved in decision making during the cancer process and ask very open questions to be fully informed about a disease generally affecting every aspect of their life. “For that reason, it is fundamental that specialists be able to provide the answers they need, always adapting the message to each individual”, explains Dr. Sara Encinas from the Medical Oncology Service at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid.

These are the ten most common questions patients face in the specialist’s office:

  1. What is the prognosis of my disease? Patients worry about their immediate, middle-term and long-term future. That is why specialists explain reality personally, keeping an open mind about all the options in each case.
  2. My cancer is incurable, but can anything be done? The fact that a tumor does not have a definitive cure does not mean that there are no options to extend life significantly and even improve quality of life. Yes, something can be done.
  3. How will the treatment affect me? Although chemotherapy does have side effects, treatment is adjusted to each patient to minimize the side effects. What is more, all the side effects are reversible and treatable.
  4. How can I prepare myself for chemotherapy? Before receiving treatment, the patient is given a detailed description of the potential side effects. Generally, a visit to the dentist is recommended because some therapies affect oral health and, at the same time, one’s oral health can affect the progress of the disease.
  5. Is there anything that depends directly on me? Looking after oneself, with a positive attitude and not neglecting things like food or one’s social life are fundamental to assimilating the diagnosis and facing therapy.
  6. Is physical exercise good? From a medical point of view, exercise adapted to the individual patient raises the defenses and increases stamina, helping recovery and preventing possible complications during treatment.
  7. Could my fertility be at risk? In cases where there could be a risk of loss of fertility, there are egg or sperm preservation programs to leave the door open to in vitro fecundation.
  8. Does this mean that my family is also at risk of having cancer? Although only 5% of cancers are hereditary, this is one of the most common questions, particularly among younger patients. The cases in which hereditary cancer is suspected, these are referred to the Genetic Counseling Unit where an individualized study will be carried out.
  9. Will the pain affect my quality of life? Pain is one of the most limiting symptoms, but there are a variety of therapies available to help manage the pain.
  10. I am a family member, what can I do? One’s closest environment is fundamental to helping the patient get over cancer, so family members and friends must be actively involved throughout the cancer process. Being informed and accompanying the patient are particularly important tasks for the family.