While cancer treatments may have been limited in the past, today treatment options are as personalized to each patient and their unique diagnosis.
A cancer diagnosis brings with it more than just doctor’s appointments, treatment plans, and worry. It typically also brings unsolicited stories and advice. You know the type:
“My grandma had breast cancer, and she had a mastectomy. That’s the only way to go.”
“Our neighbor, Doug, had bladder cancer and they gave him chemo. You should definitely get chemo.”
Factors that drive your unique treatment plan
Your cancer is your cancer. And just as the risk factors that contributed to your diagnosis are specific to each you, the treatment options you and your physician discuss will be unique based on your:
- Cancer type/location
- Results of diagnostic tests and biopsies, including:
- Scans and imaging tests (CT scans, MRI)
- Blood counts, including a complete blood count (CBC) to measure the makeup of the red and white blood cells and plasma in your blood.
- Tumor markers, blood tests that are used to help detect, diagnose, and manage some types of cancer
- Biopsies, which are tissues samples that are removed, examined, and tested to determine the presence and type of cancer cells
- Pathology tests. If you’ve had surgery for your cancer, tissue samples may be examined and tested by a pathologist to determine the stage of your cancer and where in your body the cancer originated.
- Genetic testing. Some types of cancer have a genetic component. Genetic tests can help assess your risk for hereditary cancers and the presence of gene mutations that may impact how your cancer will act, how it will respond to treatment — and help predict if your family could be at risk for a similar cancer. The Genetic Counselors at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers can help to determine if you have a hereditary cause to your cancer.
- Staging and whether or not the cancer has spread (metastasized) and to where
- Overall health and other chronic diseases, which could rule out certain treatment options
- Whether or not you’ve tried any other treatment options, how your cancer responded, and what side effects they caused
- Availability of clinical trials to address your specific cancer type
- Your treatment goals
Creating a personalized treatment plan
At Rocky Mountain Medical Centers, you’ll meet with your care team to evaluate the treatment options that will work best for you.
But one of the most important places to start is with your treatment goals. Depending on many of the factors above, your goal may be to cure the cancer, control it to keep it from spreading or growing, or ease the symptoms caused by the cancer, called palliative care.
In addition to talking with your physician about treatment options, you may choose to meet with a Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers social worker to initiate advanced care planning. They’ll discuss not just your treatment goals, but also help provide information about the emotional, psychological, spiritual, practical, and financial concerns that are part of making your decision.