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Speak Up When You Have Cancer

Your voice matters when undergoing treatment

(The second in a two-post blog series)

You’ve begun cancer treatment and feel unusually worn-out. Is it a side effect of treatment? Does cancer make you tired? Could stress be causing your fatigue? Finding an answer begins with finding your voice and the courage to open your mouth. Some people are afraid to ask questions because they don't want to bother their hurried physicians. Your doctor and medical team are never too busy to answer questions about your treatment and health. In fact, by letting them know when you are experiencing problems, you’ll actually help them to provide better care.

Some people feel empowered by asking what to expect even before they begin cancer treatment. Your medical team should work closely with you to educate you and provide relief so you can undergo necessary tests to diagnose and monitor your cancer, and any therapies you need for treatment. You have the right to make choices in your care and to live as comfortably as possible at every stage of treatment and beyond. You may feel stronger and more confident about asserting yourself if you enlist a friend or close family member as a sounding board. Ask someone you trust to help you identify your values, needs, priorities, and preferences, and align them with your treatment plan. Additionally, you’ll sharpen your self-advocacy skills if you:

  • Communicate these important factors clearly to your doctor and treatment team.

  • Seek information about your specific cancer, available treatments, and your individual options. (Your medical team can help with this.)

  • Join a cancer support group to connect with other survivors who are in the same boat.

  • Share in your treatment decision making from the beginning. While living with cancer, you may face a variety of decisions. You are a member of your treatment team. You can re-evaluate your decisions at any time and change course along the way.

For more information about learning to self-manage emotional reactions to cancer-related stress using an innovative digital platform, visit CanSurround.


Donovan, H., Hagan, T. (2013). Ovarian cancer survivors’ experiences of self-advocacy: A focus group study. Oncology Nursing Forum, 40(2), 140-147. doi: 10.1188/13.ONF.A12-A19 Donovan, H., Hagan, T. (2013). Self-advocacy and cancer: A concept analysis. Journal of Advanced Nursing, (69)10, 2348-2359. doi: 10.1111/jan.12084 National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. (2009). Self-advocacy: A cancer survivor’s handbook. Retrieved June 1, 2015.

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