Newly Diagnosed with Colorectal Cancer: What You Need to Know

It's understandable to have a lot of questions after receiving a diagnosis of colon or rectal cancer. The team at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute is here to help you understand your particular diagnosis, who is on the care team, and prepare for your first medical oncology appointment. 

Choosing Your Colorectal Cancer Care Team 

To help make treatment decisions about your colorectal cancer, it’s helpful to first consult with a medical oncologist. Patients of Willamette Valley Cancer Institute have access to a cancer specialist who is up-to-date on the best way to manage and treat colon or rectal cancer. 

The medical oncologist is typically the leader of the colorectal cancer treatment process. He or she will spend time with you after reviewing test results so they can determine the cancer location, size of the tumor, and whether it has spread (metastasized). They will also consult with other physicians who are typically part of the treatment process, including a surgeon and radiation oncologist.

Together they can develop the best treatment plan and timing of the treatments for your particular situation. 

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Preparing for Your First Oncology Visit

During your first oncology appointment, there will be a lot of information to process. Your cancer care team will give more details about your condition and discuss their general plan for treating it. Because of this, you should bring a notebook or recording device, so you don’t miss anything important. 

We also recommend that you bring a friend or family member along with you. In addition to providing support, they can serve as an extra set of ears and ask questions you might not think to ask.

For additional information, visit our Preparing For Your First Oncology Visit page.

Write It All Down

As a cancer patient, you’ll receive a lot of information from your oncologist, which can be hard to remember. To stay organized and ensure you don’t forget things, we recommend you purchase a notebook or binder that can be used for notetaking at each of your visits. It’s an easy and effective way to jot down your questions and concerns when you’re away from the office and to keep track of medications, scheduled appointments, doctor’s instructions, etc. 

If you're worried that you'll miss important information while you're taking notes or a written notebook just isn’t ideal for you, you might want to record conversations with your physician (many smartphones have a recording feature) and write down the important information in your notebook later.

Questions to Consider Asking Your Oncologist

Asking your oncologist questions is how you can better understand your illness and what to expect during treatment. Below are some questions we recommend you bring up during your first oncology visit. 

  • Do I have cancer of the colon or of the rectum? 
  • Will I need more tests? 
  • Are there changes I need to make to my diet? 
  • What are the treatment options for my colon or rectal cancer?
  • Does my colorectal cancer treatment plan include surgery? 
  • What kinds of side effects can be expected from treatment? 
  • Will a colostomy bag be necessary? Will it be permanent? 
  • How will cancer treatment affect my daily life? 
  • Is it good or bad for me to exercise during chemotherapy or radiation treatments? 
  • Are there other medical specialists that I’ll need to see as part of the treatment? 
  • Do my siblings or children have an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer? 
  • Is there a clinical trial that would be a good fit for me?

How Soon Do I Have to Make Treatment Decisions? 

It's important to make good, informed decisions about your colorectal cancer treatment without delay. However, it’s wise to take a little time to listen to your doctor's recommended cancer treatment plan and address any questions or concerns you may have. Your first step is to schedule an appointment with a gastrointestinal or colorectal cancer specialist. You also have time to get a second opinion. 

Getting a Second Opinion

It is important for you to feel confident in your decision and comfortable with the cancer specialists who will be taking care of you throughout this experience. Getting a second opinion can give you the peace of mind you need before starting the treatment process.

Second opinions for those diagnosed with colorectal cancer are available at WVCI. We will review the diagnosis itself and the treatment options recommended. Many insurance companies will cover a second opinion assessment, but you should always check with your insurance provider to check your coverage before making an appointment. To schedule a second opinion with one of our oncologists, choose one of our locations that is most convenient to you before contacting us to schedule an appointment.

Insurance Coverage

A common concern of patients is how they will pay for their colorectal cancer treatment. This is totally understandable! 

If you have insurance, at least some of your colorectal cancer treatment should be covered by your policy. Every policy is different, and every patient's recommended course of treatment will be unique. We are contracted with most major insurers, but we also have financial counselors available to work through individual financial situations.

Please contact our office to verify that our cancer care providers are participating in your health plan. You can also learn more by visiting our Insurance and Financial Counselors page. 

You Are Not Alone in Your Colorectal Cancer Journey

The cancer care team at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute is dedicated to assisting patients every step of the way during this difficult time. We’re here to answer questions and connect you with the resources you need. If you or a loved one is seeking colorectal cancer treatment in the Willamette Valley or Central Coast, request an appointment with our oncologists located in Albany, Corvallis, Eugene, Florence, Lincoln City, and Newport, Oregon.

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