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Cancer: What You Need to Know

When the Diagnosis Is Cancer

The news comes like a sledgehammer into the stomach: "I'm sorry to tell you, but you have cancer."

Every year, a million Americans are devastated by news of cancer or another dreaded disease. What soon follows is an avalanche, a tidal wave of emotions: fear, anger, bewilderment, indecision, and the need to reach out to a family member or a loved one for support and encouragement.

Quite often, a person's first reaction is to think, "No way, not me. I'm a good person," as if the cancer resulted as a punishment for unresolved issues. Then comes an overwhelming need to get information. And that is probably why you are reading this.

You need to become the best and smartest patient your doctor ever had, simply because you need to be.

For most people, the cancer can be cured or controlled by surgery and, in some cases, by combinations of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Never before has the outlook for cancer treatment and cure been so hopeful. For a proportion of people, however, the cancer continues to spread. This can be a devastating development. Those coping with cancer can become distracted by feelings of anger and hostility, not only toward the cancer but also toward the doctors and nurses trying to help. This is a normal reaction.

There are those who say: "If the cancer progresses, it must mean that I did not try hard enough." Attitude does matter, but not in the way we often think it does. We have learned from the long-term cancer survivors that it takes social support and connectedness on this journey.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/21/2014
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