Hearing that you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a brain tumor is life-changing news. What should you do now?
Franco DeMonte, M.D., professor in MD Anderson's Department of Neurosurgery and specialist at the Brain and Spine Center, helps many people along their journey from diagnosis to survivorship. Here, he offers guidance for patients and caregivers.
While it's natural to feel frightened, disoriented and confused, it's important to stay calm and empower yourself. Patients often feel better once they take a few steps back, process the news and begin to research options.
Do your research
In your battle with a brain tumor, information is ammunition. Established websites, such as the American Brain Tumor Association and the American Cancer Society, can tell you what you need to know.
This applies not just to patients, but caregivers as well. "Caregivers see things from a different perspective, so it's important for them to be informed and learn as much as they can," DeMonte explains.
Second opinions matter
Ask your doctor if you have time for a second opinion because chances are, you do. "We encourage second opinions, because if you are the patient, you have to be comfortable with your decision," DeMonte says.
As you talk with different doctors, ask the same questions so you can compare their answers. Ask them about their experience with brain tumors. How often do they see cases like yours? How soon can you begin treatment? Do they work on a multidisciplinary team?
Evaluate your options
Now compare. Specific things to look for are the types of brain tumors treated and patient volume, as well as a center with clinical research programs, support programs and brain tumor specialists (neurosurgeons, neuro-oncologists, neuro-radiation therapists and pathologists).
Stay informed and up to date
Ask your physician for digital copies of all your records, including MRI and CT scans, so you have them handy. Be your own advocate.
Above all, stay positive and know that you are not alone in your treatment journey.
Brain tumor caregiver story (video)