FAQs - Patient Information

If you have questions about your cancer diagnosis, don’t worry—you’re not alone. It’s natural to want to know more about the disease, and it’s an important part of understanding what to expect from treatment. The following questions are some of the most commonly asked by our patients. We suggest taking the time to read through them, then write down any additional questions you may have so you can talk to the treatment team about them during your next visit.

Are all cancers terminal?

Thanks to advances in diagnostics and treatment, many types of cancer are relatively easy to treat, and there is little chance that they will re-occur. One of the best things you can do to improve your odds of beating cancer is to undergo regular cancer screenings and check-ups with your provider. The earlier that cancer is detected, the faster treatment can begin and the likelihood for better outcomes is increased.

Can cancer be prevented?

No cancer can be absolutely prevented, but there are steps you can take to lower your risk of developing cancer. These include not smoking, staying out of the sun, eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise.

Do all cancer patients need chemotherapy or radiation?

While these types of therapies are effective in many situations, not every person who is diagnosed with a cancer will ultimately need them. The treatment(s) your provider may recommend will be based type of cancer you have, your age, your overall health, the stage of your cancer, and a number of other factors. At St. Vincent Healthcare, we offer our patients the latest and best treatments and technologies available throughout our region, including CyberKnife®, targeted cancer therapy, hormone therapy and more.

Should I get a second opinion?

Getting a second opinion about your cancer diagnosis can help to keep you better informed and answer additional questions you might have. If you’ve been told you have cancer, the cancer experts at St. Vincent Healthcare are ready to review your records, conduct additional testing and discuss the results with you. In addition, as a St. Vincent Healthcare patient, you’ll have the advantage of our integrated approach to care—including having your case presented to our Tumor Board, which brings together providers to evaluate tests, suggest alternative protocols and determine the most successful course of treatment for you.

How do I tell my friends and family I have cancer?

Second only to learning that you have cancer yourself is the difficulty of telling your family and close friends about it. They are likely to have many of the same questions and fears you do, and will want to help, but may be unsure how to do so. Be honest with them and share how you’re feeling.  Ask them for help if you need it—most will be more than grateful for the chance to support you. If you’re struggling with telling people, or are worried about with their reactions, working with a counselor who can help you do so. Talking with other cancer patients and survivors may also provide the support you need, and there are also support groups for spouses, friends and family of people with cancer.

Do all cancer treatments have side effects—and how long do side effects last?

Because cancer treatments often affect healthy cells as well as cancerous ones, most have associated side effects. The most common cells to be affected are those in hair follicles, the digestive tract, and blood cells in the bone marrow, which is why some patients may lose their hair and become nauseated and/or tired. Side effects differ based on the type of treatment administered, and the length of time those side effects linger will also vary based on treatment type, patient health and individual experience.

Will I be able to lead a normal life while I’m receiving cancer treatments?

In many ways, yes. Although some treatments have side effects which impact daily activities—especially  immediately following radiation or chemotherapy infusion—most patients who were in good health prior to their diagnosis will be able to lead a fulfilling life throughout their treatment, including spending time with family, working or enjoying hobbies. We are happy to answer any questions you may have about work, travel, sports or other day-to-day activities.

Will I ever feel normal again?

Learning you have cancer may be one of the most significant moments you will ever experience. From that moment, there are so many questions to ask, fears to face, decisions to make and treatments to undergo, you may worry that your life will never be the same. In some ways, it won’t. You will always be a person who has or who had cancer. But that doesn’t mean that you must stop doing the things that you enjoy or spending time with the people that you love. We encourage you to remember that cancer is something you have—not who you are. We’ll make every effort to help you maintain and return to the life and lifestyle you’ve always enjoyed.

Can I be around my children and family during treatment?

Yes. In fact, your cancer journey is a time that can actually help you strengthen your relationship with your family, and their love and concern for you can provide you much-needed moral support. If your immune system is compromised due to treatment, your oncologist will provide information on how to keep yourself as strong as possible even when you may around children and other adults who may have colds, the flu or other illnesses.

Who do I call for insurance and financial assistance questions?

A Patient Accounts representative can assist you with questions about billing and payments for your care and treatment. They can also answer questions about our Financial Assistance Policy in case you have concerns about paying for your medical care. Based on your eligibility and income level, St. Vincent Healthcare may discount some or the entire amount of your bill and help you make payment arrangements.