The Chemo KateLynn Column
 Practical Advice for Cancer Survivors and their Families

Issue 1 – November 2010

Diagnosis Cancer:
Six Critical Next Steps

“You’ve got cancer.”  These three words are among the scariest you’ll ever hear.  Here are six critical next steps to help you achieve the best possible outcome:

1. Find the very best oncologist who specializes in your specific cancer.   If you needed heart surgery, you’d go to a cardiac surgeon. Right? The same logic applies to cancer.  If you have breast cancer, go to a breast cancer specialist.  If you have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, find an oncologist who specializes in lymphoma.  Find two or three oncologists who are experts in your specific cancer by conducting Internet searches and/or by asking friends and family members who might have ties to the medical community.  Interview those oncologists (see step 4 below) and hire one to be your doctor.   Ideally, your oncologist should be affiliated with a major cancer center and be covered by your health insurance (see step 6 below).

2. Ensure your biopsied tissue sample is tested by at least two independent medical facilities.  Each oncologist you interview should insist on performing his/her own analysis of the tissue sample obtained via your biopsy vs. accepting the original written biopsy report.  To ensure you have been given an accurate diagnosis, it is absolutely essential that multiple tests by different medical laboratories be performed on your tissue sample.  Typically, the medical facility at which your biopsy was performed will freeze sufficient tissue samples so that multiple tests can be performed.  You may have to contact the facility at which your biopsy was performed in order to obtain fresh tissue samples for additional testing.  Remember - an accurate diagnosis is THE foundation for determining the right cancer treatment, so don’t skip this critically important step.

3. Become an educated patient.  The more you know about your disease, the more engaged you can be in selecting the best oncologists and making treatment-related decisions that are best for you.  The Internet is an excellent source of information.  Make sure to check the websites of specific cancer organizations (e.g., The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society if you have been diagnosed with a blood cancer), as they are great sources of information. If you don’t have the emotional strength to do the research yourself, ask a friend or relative to do it for you. 

4.  Prepare for doctor visits.  Before each doctor’s visit, you should prepare a written list of questions.   It is especially important to ask questions before you start treatment so that you understand why your oncologist is recommending a specific course of treatment over other options and what you can expect in terms of side effects and results.  Make sure you take notes during each visit.

5.  Form a support team.  Your support team should consist of a handful of close relatives and friends who can provide you with emotional support and who are sincerely willing and able to make the commitment to accompany you on doctors’ visits and treatments.  The advantages of having another person with you at each doctor’s visit to listen, ask questions and take notes cannot be overstated.

6.  Check your insurance plan.  Cancer treatments are very expensive.  Make sure you check with your health insurance carrier to ensure your plan covers the medical facility and oncologist you want to use.  If the medical facility and doctor are not in-network you may still want to use them but be aware that your out-of-pocket costs will likely be higher and may be subject to lifetime maximums.


About Chemo KateLynn
Chemo KateLynn is an autobiographical character created by Andrea Lynn Katz, CCS (Certified Cancer Survivor) and author of Chemo KateLynn: Humorous Perspectives on Life Before Cancer and After Diagnosis.  In addition to being an author, cancer survivor and a bone marrow transplant survivor, Andrea is a sought-after inspirational speaker. If you have questions about cancer and cancer survival or would like Andrea to speak at a function you are planning, please send an email to  Want to become a fan of Chemo KateLynn?  Please visit Chemo KateLynn on facebook.

The content provided in this newsletter is for information purposes only and is in no way intended to be a substitute for medical consultation with a qualified professional.  We encourage readers to be careful when using medical information. If you are unsure about your medical condition, consult a physician. We do not guarantee nor take responsibility for the medical accuracy of the information contained in this newsletter, nor do we assume any liability for the content on

The Chemo KateLynn Column – Issue 1 – November 2010