You’re sitting in the waiting room. You or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer. Your mind is spinning, full of questions. Yet when face to face with your doctor, your mind goes blank. Perhaps you make your way through treatment and you still don’t understand what has happened and why certain test or treatments have been done. You’re nervous to keep your doctors long, they always seem so busy. You Google and explore the Internet, but it just brings more questions and confusion. The information given on the Internet just overwhelms you, and afterwards you just feel tired. When you visit with others who have gone through treatment, they are just as confused, overwhelmed, and curious as you.
I find this to be a common problem in my practice. Patients in their first visit, tell me that they have visited multiple physicians and had multiple tests done. At that point, they are in a state of shock. I am Dr. Kris Gast, and a major part of my job is to explain to you, in a way you can understand, and not in Latin, the language of the MDs. I am here to answer your questions about cancer and the treatment process. So let’s get started with the most common question:
- How does your doctor know which treatment is best for you?
Treatment today is based on decades of research. When new treatments are available, the patients who have come before you have tried these new treatments. In trials patients are assigned treatment, sometime without even the doctors knowing exactly what drugs the patients are receiving. Cancer patients must have check ups for five to ten years to determine if they have been cured. Patients have x-rays and lab work on a regular basis. Trials are no different. Patients are followed for five to ten years. Periodically information regarding the patients who are in the trail is published in medical journals. After all the patients have had at least five years of check ups the final data is analyzed. If the final data shows the new treatment is better than the existing treatment, then the new treatment becomes the standard. New treatments usually go through multiple trials before they become the standard treatment. This is why it takes so long for new cancer treatments to become available. You can see why the term practice is used with respect to medicine. Doctors we are always learning. Next time I will answer the question: What does Stage mean?
On that note, send your cancer questions and I will do my best to answer them, in English of course.
Dr. Kris Gast is a Board Certified Radiation Oncologist who has been in practice 21 years, the last 13 years at Fort Smith Radiation Oncology.