You’ve Been Newly Diagnosed with Leukemia. What Comes Next?
Being diagnosed with leukemia can be alarming, so it’s understandable that you may have questions about what you will face in the coming days, weeks, and months. At Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers (RMCC), our goal is to help you address some of the questions head-on, so you can properly prepare for your first oncology appointment. We hope this guide will make your path to leukemia treatment a bit smoother.
What Kind of Doctor Should I See?
Typically, patients will move from their PCP (primary care physician) to a hematologist, which is a doctor who specializes in treating people with blood cancers. As a patient of Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, you will have access to our blood cancer specialists who can be seen at any of our convenient locations.
Your RMCC hematologist will take time to learn about your specific diagnosis and will consult with your care team to develop a personalized treatment plan for you. Your care team will include several specialists, including:
- Medical oncologist
- Radiation oncologist
- Oncology nurse
- Registered dietitian
Visiting with the hematologist first will help determine the best treatment for your particular leukemia diagnosis.
What Type of Leukemia Do I Have?
Generally, leukemias are categorized by which type of blood cell they arise from and how quickly they progress. Fast-growing leukemias are called acute, while slower-growing leukemias are called chronic. Leukemia that affects lymphoid cells is called lymphoid, lymphocytic, or lymphoblastic leukemia. Leukemia that affects myeloid cells is called myeloid, myelogenous, or myeloblastic leukemia.
Your hematologist will help you understand more your specific type as it is an important step toward understanding your treatment.
Keep a Notebook
After a leukemia diagnosis, a lot of information will be coming your way from your cancer care team— much of which can be hard to remember. To stay organized, we suggest getting a notebook to keep a record of important information. This can include information such as how you’re feeling and what medicines or supplements you’re taking, to any questions, thoughts, or observations you have regarding appointments and procedures. Try to put a date on everything you write down to keep your thoughts and notes organized.
If audio recordings on your phone work better for you, that’s fine too. Just pick one method and commit to using it regularly. Having information well documented can help keep the lines of communication open between you and your doctors.
Your First Oncology Appointment
The first oncology appointment is often the most difficult one, so we recommend that you take a relative or friend with you as a support partner. Not only will they be there to provide emotional support, but they can also listen and help take notes on all the information you will be receiving. For more information about your first visit with a Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers hematologist, visit our New Patients’ web page.
Here are some questions to consider when meeting your hematologist:
- What is my diagnosis? What does this mean?
- What are my treatment options?
- How long will treatment last?
- What are the possible side effects of this treatment?
- How will the treatment affect my daily life? What adjustments, if any, should I make?
- Is a clinical trial an option for me?
- If I’m worried about managing the costs of cancer care, who can help me?
- What support services are available to me? To my family?
- Whom should I call with questions or problems?
- How soon do I have to make a decision regarding treatment?
What About Clinical Trials for Leukemia?
As a member of US Oncology Research, Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers can access the latest clinical trials throughout Colorado. These leukemia clinical trials help develop new treatment options and allow many patients to receive newly developed therapies or investigational drugs not yet available outside the study.
Talk to your blood cancer specialist to determine if you are right for one of our available leukemia trials.
Should I Get a Second Opinion?
Feeling confident about your leukemia diagnosis is extremely important, so many patients choose to get a second opinion before beginning a specific treatment plan. Our physicians provide many second opinions on both leukemia diagnosis and treatment options at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers. Many insurance companies will cover a second opinion assessment, but it is still good to contact your insurance provider for verification of coverage.
You Are Not Alone
Through this challenging time, the physicians at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers are here to help you every step of the way, including providing you with a binder with more helpful tips and what to expect during your journey with leukemia. Various community resources may help you too.
Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers has several convenient locations scattered across the state of Colorado. Please contact us today to request an appointment.