Cancer patients: Learn your rights
(NewsUSA) - According to the American Cancer Society, in the United States, one out of every two men and one out of every three women will develop cancer at some point during his or her life. The good news, however, is that with early detection and targeted treatments, 66 percent of these patients will live five or more years after being diagnosed.
"It's important to know what is reasonable to ask of your doctors, employers and insurers because the odds are that you or a loved one will develop cancer at some point," said Dr. Louis B. Harrison, a radiation oncologist at Continuum Cancer Centers of New York and past chairman of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO).
So, what should you be asking and looking for? Patients, their families and their friends should know their rights -- rights that could make all the difference during and after cancer treatment. Consider the following:
1. You have the right to ask questions. Choosing a cancer treatment is a big deal. Ask as many questions as you need to until you feel comfortable, and be cautious of doctors who won't answer your questions.
2. You have the right to know whether a treatment is likely to work. Doctors don't have a crystal ball to guarantee whether a treatment method will work. But doctors do read the latest research and should be able to tell you about a treatment's effectiveness for your type of cancer. Watch out for unproven treatments.
3. You have a right to know about side effects. Consider them as you weigh which treatments are best for you and your lifestyle. Don't believe anyone who tells you a treatment has no side effects.
4. You have the right to a second opinion, as well as a third, fourth or fifth opinion. You are in charge of your cancer treatments. Take the time to get recommendations from several specialists with expertise in your type of cancer, including a surgeon, a medical oncologist (a chemotherapy doctor) and a radiation oncologist (a doctor specializing in radiation therapy). Ask for your case to be reviewed by a patient care conference at your cancer center or hospital.
5. You have a right to understand your medical leave. As you are making your plans, talk to your employer to understand their medical leave and disability policies. If possible, get something in writing.
6. You have a right to understand your costs. Treatments can be expensive, even if you have insurance or Medicare. Ask your doctors and insurance providers, before treatment begins, about your costs so you can plan ahead.
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