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38. Asking Better Questions

Think about what to ask the doctor before your appointment. Do some homework about cancer. The more educated you are, the more appreciative the doctor will be. and the stronger the doctor-patient bond will become. Here's what you know already:

Biology 101. Biology is the study of cells, and you’ve learned a lot about them. You know that cancer is a disease of the cell and you known why cells can become cancerous. You know that cancerous cells can become malignant tumors. And you know the different ways science tries to kill cancer cells.

Survival. You know that a lot of Americans get cancer but most of them survive. One reason: over 50% of all cancers attack the prostate, colon or breasts and all three cancers now have very high survival rates, often over 80%.

Who Thought of That? As you battle cancer you’ll hear about many creative ways for attacking the disease. Where those ideas come from is no longer a mystery. You know what the government is doing through the NCI. You know how research is coordinated by trade associations like ASCO and AARP. You know the names of the very best hospitals and you understand what the pharma companies are doing to discover new drugs and validate them through clinical trials.

Treatment Choices. Now you know about the four basic treatments for cancer – surgery, chemo, radiation and new cell-targeted drugs. And you know that often treatments are combined. You have a basic understanding of what each treatment does – for example, how chemo actually works and its side effects, and when surgery is most successful.

"Cutting-Edge" Medicine. You know this is mainly coming from “Big Molecule” drugs that biotech is producing – and you know the names of some and basically how they work.

Economics of the Disease. You now understand something about health insurance coverage for cancer and how you can end un underinsured. You know who is "paying the bill" for treating cancer patients in America and how expensive it has become.

Coping. You’ve also learned about strategies for coping with cancer and all sorts of resources -- from Internet sites to patient navigators -- that can be accessed if you really try.