Decisions of Kidney Cancer Treatment

Cancer can be very stressful. While absorbing the fact that you have cancer, you must also learn about tests and treatments. And, the time you have to decide on a treatment plan may feel short. This article aims to help you talk with your doctor and make decisions of kidney cancer treatment that are right for you.

1. The Decision is Entirely Yours

The role patients want in choosing their treatment differs. You may feel uneasy about making decisions of kidney cancer treatment. This may be due to a high level of stress. It may be hard to hear or know what others are saying. Stress, pain, and drugs can limit your ability to make good decisions. You may feel uneasy because you don’t know much about cancer. You’ve never heard the words used to describe cancer, tests, or treatments. Likewise, you may think that your judgment isn’t any better than your doctors’.

Letting others decide which option is best may make you feel more at ease. However, whom do you want to make the decisions? You may rely on your doctors alone to make the right decisions of kidney cancer treatment. However, your doctors may not tell you which to choose if you have multiple good options. You can also have loved ones help. They can gather information, speak on your behalf, and share in decision-making with your doctors. Even if others decide which treatment you will receive, your treatment team may still ask that you sign a consent form.

On the other hand, you may want to take the lead or share in decision-making. In shared decision-making, you and your doctors share information, discuss the options, and agree on a treatment plan. Your doctors know the science behind your plan but you know your concerns and goals. By working together, you can decide on a plan that works best for you when it comes to your personal and health needs.

2. Questions About Kidney Cancer Treatment

You will likely meet with experts from different fields of medicine. It is helpful to talk with each person. Prepare questions before your visit and ask questions if the information isn’t clear. You can also get copies of your medical records. It may be helpful to have a family member or friend with you at these visits to listen carefully and even take notes. A patient advocate or navigator might also be able to come.

They can help you ask questions and remember what was said.

The questions below are suggestions for information you read about in this book. Feel free to use these questions or come up with your own personal questions to ask your doctor and other members of your treatment team.

a. Questions to ask your doctors about testing

1. What tests will I have? How often will I be tested?

2. Where will the tests take place? Will I have to go to the hospital?

3. How long will it take? Will I be awake?

4. Will it hurt? Will I need anesthesia?

5. What are the risks? What are the chances of infection or bleeding afterward?

6. How do I prepare for testing? Should I not take aspirin? Should I not eat beforehand?

7. Should I bring a list of my medications? Should I bring someone with me?

8. How long will it take for me to recover? Will I be given an antibiotic or other drug afterward?

9. If a biopsy is done, will I get a copy of the results?

10. How soon will I know the test results and who will explain them to me?

11. Who will talk with me about the next steps? When?

b. Questions to ask your doctors about treatments

1. Do I have to get treated?

2. What are my treatment options?

3. Will I have more than one treatment?

4. If surgery is an option, which type of surgery do you recommend? How often do you perform this type of surgery?

5. Will laparoscopic surgery be an option?

6. What are the risks and benefits of each treatment for kidney cancer?

7. Will my age, general health, cancer stage, and other medical conditions limit my treatment choices?

8. What treatment do you recommend for me? How is this treatment given?

9. How soon should I start treatment? How long does treatment last?

10. Where will I be treated? Will I have to stay in the hospital or can I go home after each treatment?

11. What can I do to prepare for treatment? Should I stop taking my medications? Should I store my blood in case I need a transfusion?

12. How much will the treatment cost? How can I find out how much my insurance company will cover?

13. How likely is it that I’ll be cancer-free after treatment?

14. What symptoms should I look out for while being treated for kidney cancer?

15. When will I be able to return to my normal activities?

16. What is the chance that the cancer will come back or spread?

17. What should I do after I finish treatment?

18. Are there supportive services that I can get involved in? Support groups?

c. Questions to ask your doctors about clinical trials

1. Is there a clinical trial that I could take part in?

2. What is the purpose of the study?

3. What kinds of tests and treatments does the study involve?

4. What does the treatment do?

5. Has the treatment been used before? Has it been used for other types of cancers?

6. Will I know which treatment I receive?

7. What is likely to happen to me with, or without, this new treatment?

8. What are my other choices? What are their benefits and risks?

9. How might the study change my daily life?

10. What side effects can I expect from the study? Can the side effects be controlled?

11. Will I have to stay in the hospital? If so, how often and for how long?

12. Will the study cost me anything? Will any of the treatment be free?

13. If I’m harmed as a result of the research, what treatment might I get?

14. What type of long-term follow-up care is part of the study?

3. Deciding Between Options

Deciding which option is best can be hard. Doctors from different fields of medicine may have different opinions on which option is best for you. This can be very confusing. Your spouse or partner may disagree with which option you want. This can be stressful. In some cases, one option hasn’t been shown to work better than another, so science isn’t helpful. Some ways to decide on treatment are discussed next.

a. Getting a second opinion

Even if you like and trust your doctor, it is helpful to get a 2nd opinion. You will want to have another doctor review your test results to make decisions of kidney cancer treatment. He or she can suggest a treatment plan or check the one you already heard about.

b. Things you can do to prepare

Check with your insurance company about its rules on 2nd opinions. You want to know about out-of-pocket costs for doctors who are not part of your insurance plan.

Make plans to have copies of all your records sent to the doctor you will see for your 2nd opinion. Do this well before your appointment. If you run into trouble having records sent, pick them up and bring them with you. If the new doctor offers other advice, make an appointment with your first doctor to talk about the differences. Do whatever you need to feel confident about your diagnosis and treatment plan.

c. Getting support

Support groups often include people at different stages of treatment. Some may be in the process of deciding while others may be finished with treatment. At support groups, you can ask questions and hear about the experiences of other people with kidney cancer. If your hospital or community doesn’t have support groups for people with kidney cancer, check out the websites on the next page.

You can also reach out to a social worker or psychologist. They can help you find ways to cope or refer you to support services. These services may also be available to your family, friends, and to those with children, so they can connect and get support.

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