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Diagnosed with Prostate Cancer? What’s Next?

A prostate cancer diagnosis can leave you feeling emotional, overwhelmed, and of course, full of questions. Because prostate cancer is typically slow-growing, most patients have time to review and decide upon the best treatment plan for them. We’d like to help by explaining the typical process after a prostate cancer diagnosis, so you can prepare for your first oncology appointment.

What Kind of Doctor Should I Visit First?

After a prostate cancer diagnosis, it’s best to schedule your next appointment with an oncologist. That’s because oncologists are dedicated to treating cancer and have access to all of the treatment technologies for the most effective results. Surgery may seem like a logical first step, however, some prostate cancer patients can benefit from a different approach. Visiting with an oncologist first will help determine the best treatment for your specific diagnosis.

The specific type of oncologist you will see for treatment will depend on your case and the extent of the cancer. As a patient of Affiliated Oncologists, you will have access to our prostate cancer specialists in Chicago Ridge, Hazel Crest, Palos Heights, and Oak Lawn, IL.

Your oncologist will take time to learn about your specific diagnosis and will consult with your care team and you to develop a personalized treatment plan. Your care team will include several specialists, including:

  • Medical oncologist

  • Radiation oncologist

  • Cancer care specialists, who not only assist with giving the treatments, but also with your mental health, nutrition, and financial responsibilities.

Understanding the Extent of Prostate Cancer

Your oncologist will determine the stage of the prostate cancer based on its size, grade, and location. Most likely, you have already had a biopsy and blood tests that led to a diagnosis. There may need to be some other scans and other tests that can help the oncologist understand whether the cancer cells have grown outside of the prostate.

You may have also been given a Gleason score as a part of your biopsy report. This explains to the oncologist how much the prostate cancer cells have changed in various areas of the prostate. It will be used as a part of the decision on whether treatment needs to begin right away.

Why See an Oncologist if You Don’t Need to Start Treatment Right Away?

The decision to wait before starting prostate cancer treatment is typically made after the stage is identified. Later-stage cancer may require treatment sooner while early-stage prostate cancer with a Gleason score under 7 may qualify for watchful waiting. However, even watchful waiting requires a physician’s oversight. You will have periodic appointments to check on the status of the prostate cancer to decide if it’s time to start treatment.

Preparing for Your First Oncology Appointment

During your first appointment, your oncologist evaluates what has already been done and may request a few more tests before discussing options and recommending a treatment plan. This is usually required to see if it’s grown outside of the prostate.

Your cancer care team will be sharing many important details with you that can be hard to remember. To ensure you capture it all, we suggest having a notebook to keep a record of important information. In this notebook, you can also write down questions you have, record how you’re feeling or symptoms you might experience. Do your best to jot down the date, so you can give your oncologist a better idea of how often you may be feeling symptoms.

If you prefer something other than pen and paper, consider audio recordings taken with your phone. Whatever method suits you best is fine—just pick one method and commit to using it regularly. Having well-documented information is one of the best ways to keep the lines of communication open between you and your doctors.

Questions to Ask Your Oncologist About a Prostate Cancer Diagnosis

  • How soon do I have to make a decision regarding treatment?

  • What treatment plan do you recommend when it’s time to start?

  • What can I expect during future appointments?

  • Are there nutritional supplements or vitamins I can take to boost prostate health?

  • Are clinical trials an option for treatment? Would I be a good candidate?

  • What type of supportive care is available to me through the practice or community organizations?

  • Do I have any genetic mutations that could be linked to passing this type of cancer to my children?

  • Should I change any current lifestyle choices (diet, exercise, rest, stress level)?

  • Are there any activities to avoid? Are there any that should be added to my routine?

What to Bring With You to Your First Oncology Appointment

Many people find it helpful to bring a family member or friend to appointments to help ask questions and take notes. Having an extra set of ears may help you recall details later on. In addition, bring your health records including:

  • Prostate cancer biopsy results and any other related health records from your primary care physician or urologist.

  • The results of other tests, such as a PSA test done as part of the diagnosis process.

  • Any recent images that were taken, including MRIs and CT scans.

  • A list of medications you’re currently taking including the doses. Take photos of the bottles if that’s easier than writing it all down.

  • A list of any vitamins or nutritional supplements you take regularly.

  • Your insurance card and identification.

Second Opinion on Prostate Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

You should feel confident about the accuracy of your prostate cancer diagnosis, the treatment plan, and the cancer specialists who will care for you. This is why many patients choose to get a second opinion before beginning a specific treatment plan. At Affiliated Oncologists, our physicians provide second opinions on both cancer diagnosis and treatment options for prostate cancer. Many insurance companies will cover a second opinion assessment. It is important to contact your insurance provider for verification of coverage for second opinion appointments.

You are Not Alone in Your Prostate Cancer Journey

The care team at Affiliated Oncologists is here to support you every step of the way. We care for patients throughout the South Chicago Suburbs including Chicago Ridge, Hazel Crest, Palos Heights, and Oak Lawn, Illinois, making quality cancer care easy to access close to home. Request an appointment at a location convenient for you to receive a prostate cancer consultation.