I was just diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. What are the 5 questions I should ask right away?

By: Dr. Thomas Incledon

I was just diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. What are the 5 questions I should ask right away?

Any time you or someone you love is diagnosed, it is an overwhelming time. It is important to know what to ask after a Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis in order to best determine next steps for treatment. You should ask these in a timely manner. The 5 key questions are:

  1. What is going on in my body? This is important because a lot of people do not understand their disease. “By the time patients get to us, they have already been diagnosed, but they don’t know where the cancer is, how it affects their body, or other key data points about their case,” says Founder and CEO of Causenta Dr. Tom Incledon. “We spend a lot of time educating people, so they can visualize where something is and how it is affecting their body.” Getting answers to this question will also help you understand your physician’s knowledge and communication ability, so you can determine if he or she is the type of person you want to work with during your treatment.
  2. How will you treat the cancer in my body? Understanding the philosophy of the doctor and center where you are seeking treatment is fundamental to be sure it matches your priorities or philosophy. You need to be comfortable with the treatment course you are being offered.
  3. What will you do if the treatment doesn’t work? According to Incledon, this is the most important question you can ask. “It is very rare that the first treatment works right away because NHL treatment is not that simple,” explains Incledon. “Not all centers have a ‘Plan B’ and then you end up having to find an alternate center anyway.”
  4. What options can you offer outside of chemotherapy? Knowing the various treatments your center offers is important because chemotherapy may be hard on patients who are already very frail. For these patients, chemo can be harsh and lead to faster deterioration. Another way to ask this, suggests Incledon is: Will I get access to a wide array of resources?
  5. Can I talk to a recent patient that has reached no evidence of disease? Connecting with someone who has recently been treated successfully by your doctor can be very helpful. This can not only give you hope but also will let you know what to expect. The other patients will give you a sense of how they were treated. Did they feel valued? Did the team seem to really care?

In addition to knowing what to ask, it is important for Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients to have a team of family and friends whose opinions you trust available to attend doctors’ appointments. The team has to work together to help and be sure everyone is on the same page. “Knowing the data and understanding the context, will allow a patient, and those that love them, to make informed decisions for long-term health,” says Incledon. “Be sure the people on your team are present for meetings with doctors and record these sessions.” It is overwhelming to receive all the information, especially when emotions are running high, so being able to revisit the conversations through recordings can be a game-changer.

If you are interested in learning more about our personalized care and treatment plans for Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, contact us for a complimentary 30-minute consultation today.

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