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Taking charge of your treatment

Prepare your body, mind, and spirit for the challenges ahead.

You may feel that your cancer treatment is completely in the hands of your health care professionals. That’s not the case. There’s a lot you can do to empower yourself in the fight against cancer and put yourself in the best position to benefit from treatment — whether this is your first battle with cancer or you’re facing a recurrence.

Fortify yourself

Some people liken preparing for treatment to training for the Olympics. Like an athlete, you want to make sure you’re in peak form for the challenges ahead.

While staying in shape may sound like a tall order when you’ve got cancer, it’s an important way to contribute to the success of your treatment. Eating a wholesome diet, getting enough rest, and staying as physically active as you can will make you feel healthier and more confident.

Get your team together

Your network of friends, family, and other people with cancer can be an indispensable source of encouragement, inspiration, and practical support as you undergo therapy.

Many people in treatment keep a Web page, Web log or blog, or send out regular group emails, to express their feelings and keep everyone up to date. Some organizations offer sites where you can create a free Web page, post regular updates about your treatment, and receive messages of support.

Get informed

Learning as much as you can about the type of cancer you have can help you evaluate your options and ease your fears about the unknown. Many treatment facilities have education departments or websites where you can find out about specific cancers, treatments, and procedures.

The Internet can be an indispensable resource for information about cancer and places to go for treatment. It also offers valuable tools, including message boards, chat rooms, and other virtual meeting places for people with cancer. But you may feel overwhelmed by the quantity of sometimes conflicting information. And some resources may be out-of-date, incorrect, or simply misleading.

It’s best to think of the Internet not as the authoritative source about your cancer, but as the springboard to a meaningful conversation you can have with your doctor and other members of your healthcare team.

Preventive Medicine

It’s a good idea to take care of any existing medical problems before you start treatment. If you’re bothered by a torn ligament, for example, it makes sense to have it repaired. You’ll be more comfortable, and you don’t risk the possibility of a problem getting worse because your doctors recommend against elective surgery while you’re having therapy.

In addition, a visit to the dentist is always smart. Cancer therapy can cause tooth decay. If your teeth are in good shape before treatment begins, you may be better able to keep the damage under control.

The wheat from the chaff

With all the information that’s available online, you may have trouble knowing which sources to trust. Below are some questions to ask yourself. When in doubt, talk to your doctor.

Who runs the website? Check the About Us page or site sponsors to find out who pays for the website. The URL, or web address, can also tell you something:

  • Sites ending in .gov are funded by the federal government
  • Sites ending in .edu are run by educational organizations, such as universities
  • .org often, but not always, denotes a non-profit site
  • Commercial sites end in .com or sometimes .org, since anyone can register a .org web address

Are they selling something? Some sites — such as .gov and .edu sites — are non-commercial, while others may be selling products or services. While many commercial websites offer excellent content, others put primary emphasis on the value of what they’re offering.

What’s the privacy policy? If the site prompts you for personal information, read the Privacy Policy to make sure you understand how it will be used.