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The Cancer Journey

143175672_8Your cancer journey will take you through each of the important steps—from the moment you discover a suspicious lump, bump or lesion in your head or neck to either remission and life after cancer or end-of-life choices. Everyone’s journey is different, but there are some phases along the way that everyone with head and neck cancer will experience. This section will help you to prepare for the experiences you may have in your own cancer journey.

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It does get better, and that’s what people need to know. It does get better.Jason S. (tonsil cancer survivor)

Navigating the cancer journey

This website contains many articles about specific aspects of your cancer journey that you might find helpful. They fall into the following categories:

Getting Prepared

This section reviews strategies that can help you prepare for your cancer journey, which include suggestions such as keeping a diary, being evaluated by a registered nutritionist, being evaluated by a speech pathologist and finding a support group.

Learning About Your Diagnosis

This section reviews information that you are likely to be given during the diagnosis of head and neck cancer, which includes the biopsy findings, disease grade, histological subtype and stage. How this information is likely to be used (i.e., to provide a prognosis and select a likely treatment course) is also reviewed.

Choosing a Cancer Care Team

The best practice for the management of head and neck cancer is for the patient to collaborate with a multidisciplinary team, which includes health care professionals who are experts. Criteria that you can use to evaluate members of the health care team and/or a treatment center are briefly reviewed.

Understanding Your Treatment Plan

The treatment modalities that are likely to be part of a treatment plan, such as surgery, radiation therapy and chemoradiation therapy, are briefly reviewed. There is an emphasis on recognizing the type of treatment-associated side effects and complications that you are likely to experience, based on the type of treatment received.

Life During Treatment

You are likely to undergo changes during your treatment, which include experiencing cancer-related fatigue, changes in your voice and/or changes in your ability to swallow. This section briefly reviews strategies that you can take to deal with cancer-related fatigue and obtaining adequate nutrition.

Life After Treatment

During the first two years after treatment (post-treatment), you are likely to continue to experience treatment-related side effects. Some of them, such as the ability to swallow post-chemoradiation therapy, worsen during this time period. Strategies that your health care professionals are likely to suggest, such as swallowing therapy or speech therapy, are briefly reviewed.

Navigating Your Finances

Navigating finances after the diagnosis of head and neck cancer is very challenging; financial concerns are among the most common concerns of patients diagnosed with head and neck cancer. In this section, the types of medical insurance options are briefly reviewed, along with options that patients may not have considered, such as finding financial assistance from cancer organizations.

Your Caregiver Network

Having a caregiver network is essential during your cancer journey. This section also reviews the importance of finding a support group.

The Path to Remission

This section briefly reviews remission and what your life may be like if you achieve disease remission. You are likely to continue to experience stress and anxiety or even “scanxiety” and will need to continue follow-up evaluations. You are also very likely to continue to experience functional challenges related to breathing, swallowing and speaking.

Recurrence

This section reviews how you can minimize the chances of developing recurrence or a new secondary tumor.

Life After Cancer

This section briefly reviews life after cancer for the average patient.

End-of-Life Choices

At the end of your life, you may want to be able to decide how much medical care you should receive, in addition to how and where to receive end-of-life care. This section reviews some of the legal forms that you should complete if you want to have a voice as to what type of medical care you should receive if you cannot make a decision at the end of your life. Criteria to use to evaluate hospices are also provided.