2009-05-27 / Seniors

Resources For Seniors Diagnosed With Cancer

Dear Savvy Senior,

My 62-year-old mother was just diagnosed with cancer and is feeling depressed, confused and doesn't know where to turn. What resources can you recommend that can help me help her?

Overwhelmed Daughter

Dear Overwhelmed:

Being diagnosed with cancer has got to be one of the most difficult and shocking experiences a person can go through, yet 1.4 million Americans will get the diagnosis this year alone. Here are some tips and tools that can help you and your mom get more informed about her condition and organize a plan for her treatment.

Get Informed

If you're like most people, you're clueless about cancer. Your first step is to learn about your mom's specific type of cancer, along with the treatment options, and thanks to the Internet, it's easy to do. To get started go the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at www.cancer.gov and click on your cancer type in the A to Z list of cancers. Other good and reliable sites to visit are www.cancer.org, www.medlineplus.gov and www.mayoclinic.com.

Choose a Doctor

After you know a bit about your illness, you'll need to choose a good doctor. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (www.cancer.net) provides tips on how to choose a cancer doctor (known as an oncologist), along with a searchable database to help you locate one. Also see www.vitals.com, a Web resource that will help you locate, evaluate and choose a doctor based on his or her training, expertise, consumer ratings and recommendations from other doctors. (Be sure the doctor you choose accepts your mom's health plan.) And to locate one of the 60 plus NCI cancer centers across the country see www. Cancercenters.cancer.gov.

Research Alternative Medicine

If your mother is interested in learning more about herbs, supplements and other alternative approaches to fighting cancer, go to the National Center for Alternative and Complementary Medicine (www.nccam.nih.gov). Also, check out the complementary and alternative medicine guides from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at www.mdanderson.org/departments/cimer.

Find Support Services

There are lots of programs and services available today that can help your mom with a wide variety of cancer-related issues. For example, there are counselors, social workers and cancer support groups that can help with depression, anxiety and other psychological issues; nutritionists and dietitians to help deal with nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue or mouth sores, and physical therapists, pain specialists, acupuncturists and massage therapists that can assist with pain and discomfort.org, type in her ZIP Code and search for services online.

If you don't find any programs locally that meet her needs, there are also a growing number of Internet support services that can be very helpful, too. Some good ones to check out include: Cancercare (www.cancercare.org; 800- 813-4673); American Cancer Society Cancer Survivors Network (www.acscsn.org); the Lance Armstrong Foundation (www.livestrong.org; 866- 673-7205), and the Association of Cancer Online Resources (www.acor.org).

Find Clinical Trials

At some point in her cancer treatment, your mom may decide to join a study of a new therapy. The Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups (www.cancertrialshelp.org; 877-227- 8451) and the NCI ( www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials; 800-422- 6237) are fantastic resources for learning about and finding clinical trials. They also have questions you should ask before becoming involved in these medical experiments.

Get Financial Help

If your mom's insurance is limited or if she doesn't have insurance at all, there are financial assistance programs that may be able to help her. See www.cancercare.org and click on "Get Help" then on "Assistance," or call 800- 813-4673 to learn more. The NCI also offers financial assistance information on their Web site at www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/support -- click on "Financial Assistance and Other Resources for People With Cancer."

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to "The NBC Today Show" and author of The Savvy Senior books.

The Gazette does not endorse the contents of The Savvy Senior. Check with professionals about the contents of this column.

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