A cancer diagnosis shakes up your life and the lives of your family in ways you might never expect. The diagnosis looms like the "elephant in the room" – an age-old expression used to describe something big that everyone is aware of but no one wants to talk about.
Simple Talk for Tough Times can help you talk with the children in your life about a cancer diagnosis and help them cope with the enormous changes cancer often brings.
In addition to general advice and suggestions, Simple Talk for Tough Times explores each phase of childhood development. Each section offers age-appropriate ideas for what to say, what to do and what to observe when talking with children about cancer.
Cancer casts one's life into a constant state of the unknown. The second section explores how you and your child can face these uncertainties together. It includes talking points organized by childhood developmental age groups.
A physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor and a nurse practitioner specializing in cancer care will assess how cancer is affecting your ability to do normal daily activities, work or exercise. After cancer treatment, they will work with you to restore those abilities.
If you or a close relative has had cancer, you may be concerned about your risk for a future cancer and what you can do to reduce that risk. A close relative is a parent, brother, sister, child, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew or grandparent.
You may wonder if your children or other relatives are at risk. You may also wonder if genetic testing is right for you.
Genetic counseling can help answer your questions.
A genetic counselor is a nationally certified health care provider. He or she can:
interpret complex family histories
educate about cancers that run in families (known as inherited or genetic cancer)
talk about risks and prevention
help patients and families make informed decisions about genetic testing and help interpret test results.
Not everyone with a personal or family history of cancer will benefit from a genetic test. Meeting with a genetic counselor does not mean that you will have a genetic test. You may learn more about the testing options and if they are right for you.
Not all genes linked to cancer risk have been identified. Before you have a genetic test, you want know:
that the correct test is being done
how valid the test results are
what your next steps are when you receive the results.
A genetic counselor will help answer these questions and help you make decisions that are right for you.
Genetic testing is usually done with a saliva (spit) or a blood test.
These tests are usually covered by insurance. Check with your insurance provider to see if your insurance will cover genetic testing or if prior authorization is needed. A genetic counselor may be able to help with this.
There may be a room charge or other fee from your clinic. The fee is not billed under the genetic counselor’s name but under the health care provider who referred you for genetic counseling, or from a clinic doctor.
Check with your insurance provider to see if your insurance will cover this service.
Source:Allina Health Patient Education, Cancer Genetic Counseling: How It Can Help You and Your Family, can-ahc-14960 Reviewed by: Allina Health Patient Education experts, including Shari Baldinger, MS, certified genetic counselor, Abbott Northwestern Hospital First Published: 08/17/2009 Last Reviewed: 07/15/2012
American Cancer Society services
We work with the American Cancer Society to bring their services to you and your family. For more about American Cancer Society services, call 1-800-227-2345 (1-866-228-4327 for TTY for the hearing impaired) or visit cancer.org.
A licensed cosmetologist teaches people with cancer ways to enhance their appearance and self-image during chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Allina Health locations in Minnesota include Coon Rapids, Fridley, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Shakopee. Allina Health also offers the service in River Falls, Wisconsin.
Learn about cancer and how to cope with the challenges a cancer diagnosis brings. Allina Health offers this free American Cancer Society support group series at these Minnesota locations: Coon Rapids, Fridley and St. Paul.
American Cancer Society Hope Lodges offer cancer patients and their families a free, temporary place to stay when their best hope for effective treatment may be in another city. To find a Hope Lodge and to learn more about a specific facility, please visit that location's page at cancer.org, or call the American Cancer Society toll free anytime, day or night, at 1-800-ACS-2345.
Nurse coordinators: Cancer support every step of the way
Melanie Hartman with her cancer nurse coordinator, Jill May, RN.
In August 2011, Melanie Hartman was told she had neuroendocrine carcinoma, a rare form of cancer with no known cure. Just 40 years old at the time, Hartman said her world stopped upon hearing the diagnosis.
"When you are told you have cancer, you don't even know what questions to ask," she said. "But the longer you live with the diagnosis, the more information you want."
Since her diagnosis, Hartman has learned as much as she can about her cancer and treatment options. Fortunately, she is not doing it alone.
Her cancer nurse coordinator serves as a constant source of information, support and strength.
"I tell patients their cancer diagnosis is like being thrown on a roller coaster without a seat belt. I am their seat belt. I am there to keep them in the car, on the track and moving forward," said Jill May, RN, Hartman's nurse coordinator.
In addition to providing shoulders to lean on, cancer nurse coordinators help inform patients about their options, schedule appointments, provide access to resources within the community and coordinate patients' care.
"I'm very fortunate in terms of all the care I have received through this process," Hartman said. "When you go through this, it's nice to know that someone has your back. Jill will call me out of the blue just to check in
and see how I am doing."
In the right place
The first time the two met, May was wearing the zebra-patterned awareness ribbon that represents Hartman's rare form of cancer. Hartman took that as a sign that she was on the right track.
"When I saw her, I knew I was in the right place," Hartman said. "I have never felt like a number. In my world, I'm not a number. I am a mother, a wife and a businessperson. It's nice to be validated."
May said helping people like Hartman navigate their treatment is what she was meant to do. "It can be overwhelming, but every day is a day of survivorship. I want my patients to understand that I am here for them."