Getting Past the Initial Response
"You have ovarian cancer
." No matter what your healthcare provider says after this first mention of your diagnosis, it all becomes a blur as you tune out what is said next. Taking the time to process what is becoming your new reality is important as a flood of emotions takes over -- denial, sadness, anger, and eventually acceptance. Now what?
Getting a Second Opinion
The doctors must be wrong. The tests can't be right. This can't be happening to me. This first stage of denial often leads to wanting a second opinion. Setting up a second opinion can help you process what may be happening, giving you time to research, prepare questions, and look at your treatment options.
In many situations, a second opinion is essential. If your first diagnosis was made by your primary healthcare provider, having a specialist (a gynecologic oncologist) give a second opinion will help confirm the type of cancer you have, as well as its stage and whether it has spread.
Who Will Perform the Surgery?
Numerous studies have shown that the survival rates of women with ovarian cancer are significantly higher when a gynecologic oncologist performs the surgery. Some of the research over the past 10 years has shown survival rates as high as 50 percent greater for women who used a specialist compared with those who used less experienced surgeons.
When searching for a specialist, there are several options to finding one that fits your needs. Some of these include:
- Asking your primary healthcare provider or gynecologist for a referral
- Checking with your nearest hospital or cancer center
- Going to the Foundation for Women's Cancer Web site for referrals.
Having a good support system during this time can be quite comforting. Taking someone with you to your initial diagnosis appointment or when your second opinion comes in can give you the support you need, as well as a second person who can help process the news a little more clearly than you are able to do at the time. This support person can help remember some of the potentially overwhelming information you receive.
In some cases, a quick decision needs to be made. Having someone with you that can help you look at your options and weigh the alternatives can help make your decision easier. Other times, your healthcare provider will offer you several options and you can have time to process what's best for your particular situation.