Guide to Cancer Resources

Cancer isn't just a disease, it's also a major life challenge to patients and their families. If you have cancer, you'll need lots of outside support to put up the best possible fight. Your doctor can point you toward some local and national organizations that lend a hand, but you may need to find some assistance on your own. Here's a quick guide to resources that can help you meet the challenge.

Staying informed

Understanding your disease is itself a big step toward recovery. It will be easier for you to talk to your doctor if you know the basics of your disease and your treatment. You'll know what to expect, and you'll know what you can do to help yourself feel better. The American Cancer Society (http://www.cancer.org) and the National Cancer Institute (http://www.cancer.gov) are excellent sources.

Clinical trials

At this moment, scientists across the country are testing new drugs and other therapies that might become new weapons in the fight against cancer. There's no shortage of promising treatments, but researchers can't make a single breakthrough without the help of patients.

Joining a clinical trial gives you a chance to fight your own disease while helping to advance cancer research. You could end up getting a cutting-edge medication (usually free of cost) while doctors gain a better understanding of the treatment.

There are some possible drawbacks. In most trials, some patients are randomly selected to receive a standard treatment while the rest get the new treatment that's being studied. In other words, you might not be getting anything out of the ordinary. And if you do receive the experimental treatment, there's always a chance of experiencing unknown risks or side effects, or that it will not work as well as doctors hoped.

If you're interested in joining a clinical trial, ask your doctor if there's one nearby that's right for you. The National Cancer Institute has a site that lets you search among more than 6,000 ongoing clinical trials -- sorted by type of cancer, type of study, and location -- at http://www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials/search.

Naturally, you should talk with your doctor before signing up for any trial.

Financial support

The cost of cancer care has exploded in recent years. Even if you have insurance, it's possible that not all the costs will be covered. Fortunately, help may be close at hand. You might be eligible for some benefits under the government programs Medicare (http://www.medicare.gov) or Medicaid (http://www.cms.hhs.gov/home/medicaid.asp). A nonprofit organization called CancerCare provides financial support to people who can't pay for their treatments. See http://www.cancercare.org/get_help/assistance/index.php for more information. Many federally funded hospitals are required to provide care to patients who cannot afford the treatments. To learn about such hospitals in your area, visit http://www.hrsa.gov/hillburton/default.htm. The nonprofit group NeedyMeds (http://www.needymeds.com) helps people find sources of financial support, and the National Cancer Institute offers a comprehensive list of financial resources at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/support/financial-assistance.

Insurance issues

Health insurance can be complex, and it's uncertain how the Trump Administration will affect it in 2017 and beyond. Are you having trouble navigating your insurance maze? Wondering if your insurance will cover certain types of treatments? Try contacting your insurer directly. Insurance companies are required to have a process to handle appeals for claims that are denied. Make sure your appeal is documented.

If you still have trouble getting satisfying answers, visit the Patient Advocate Foundation, an organization that helps patients get the benefits they're entitled to, at http://www.patientadvocate.org. Health Claim Appeals provides additional advice for appealing denied claims. See http://www.healthclaimappeals.org/.

Support groups

Support groups offer cancer patients and their families a great chance to talk about their experiences and learn from the insights of others. The groups can help patients feel more hopeful and give them a better sense of control over their disease. Ask your doctor about support groups near you, or check out your options at this National Cancer Institute site: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/support/organizations.

End-of-life care

If the time comes when you or a loved one needs end-of-life care, you'll want to find a top-quality hospice program that puts an emphasis on comfort and dignity in the final months. Some types of hospice care may be covered by your insurance. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (http://www.nhpco.org) serves as a clearinghouse for such information. To find an NHPCO-certified hospice program near you, visit http://www.nhpco.org.

Further Resources

American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org

National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization http://www.nhpco.org

Health Claim Appeals http://www.healthclaimappeals.org/

Patient Advocate Foundation http://www.patientadvocate.org

References

National Cancer Institute. Facts and Figures.

National Cancer Institute. Should I Take Part?

National Cancer Institute. Financial Resources and Other Resources for People With Cancer.

National Cancer Institute. National Organizations That Offer Services To People With Cancer And Their Families.

National Cancer Institute. Search for Clinical Trials.

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