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Patient question

In Times of Cancer

In Times of Cancer

Dirk is diagnosed with prostate cancer. He’s overwhelmed. His physician gives him two options: surgery or radiation. He doesn’t know what to choose and sends us an emergency mail. The next day, despite it being a long holiday weekend, we get in touch with Dirk: we make an appointment, so we can listen to his questions and give him the information he is looking for.

‘I mailed to My Cancer Navigator and to my surprise, I got an answer right away. Their personal approach comforted me. An experienced physician visited me at home and we went through my medical file. That really meant a lot to me, because I could ask all the questions that came in my head.’

The Anticancer Fund has had an information service to support people with cancer since its inception – helping you understand the science and distinguish it from the nonsense, so you can make informed decisions regarding your cancer journey.

In 2018, this service was expanded with My Cancer Navigator, and a personal contact with a physician became part of it – initially for Belgian patients only, now for anyone worldwide who contacts us.

People contact us with a wide variety of questions: about their treatment options (30%), a specific therapy (30%) or about scientific evidence on alternative medicine (10%). But a recurring theme that underlies many questions, is time...

For many people with a cancer diagnosis the meaning of time changes.

You may be wondering how much time you have left. You may worry about the timing of treatment. And, you may be asking yourself what’s the best use of your remaining time.

How much time doc?

It’s a question many doctors are reluctant to answer and for good reason. They may tell you no one has a crystal ball or that statistics cannot be applied to a single person, and that is all true. Also, we all know stories where doctors got it “wrong” and people were told they had just months to live and are still thriving years later, or, sadly, the other way around.

When people do receive an answer to this question, sometimes they find they would have preferred not to know. Therefore if you do ask about your prognosis, make sure to really think it through.

There may be many valid reasons to ask this question: you may want to make practical arrangements, you may want to have some important conversations, or you simply want to make the best use of your remaining time. And yes, statistics are not everything but they can give some direction.

Make sure when your doctor gives you information that you fully understand what the numbers mean. And if you look up things online please discuss it with your doctor as well. There are many different kinds of cancers even within one organ, and you need to make sure that what you are reading truly applies to you.

Time to treat

When receiving a cancer diagnosis or learning about a relapse people can react very differently. You may want to start treatment immediately, or, on the contrary, you may prefer to take some time to think about the different options. Hence, some may worry about the time to treatment being too long whereas others feel rushed into action.

Doctors often know their specialty so well that they may forget to explain the reasoning for the planning to the patient. And sometimes it’s just a matter of logistics. So if you have concerns, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor if there is time to think about a treatment proposal, or, if you’re anxious to get started, if it’s possible to start your treatment sooner.

Maybe you want to consider a second opinion or you just need some time to let the news sink in, and it’s ok to discuss that. Try to be open with your healthcare team about your concerns, so they can address them and you can come to a joint decision that feels right to you.

How do I use my time?

For many, a cancer diagnosis triggers an evaluation of the way they use their time.

What is truly important to you and do you use your time accordingly? Are there things you want to accomplish that you have been postponing? Or do you want to continue to live your life as normally as possible and not let the diagnosis affect how you spend your days?

Difficult questions that only you can answer. And it’s ok if you don’t always have the answers or if they change over time. For all of us, cancer or no cancer, time is limited, and often decisions need to be made without being able to predict an outcome.

When you are able to make well informed decisions, with the support of your health care team and the important people in your life, this can help you move forward positively and confidently.

What can My Cancer Navigator do?

We’ve discussed three important questions related to cancer and time. Your medical team and loved ones will have an important role in helping you find the answers. And if you feel you need more information, or would like a better understanding of different options, we’re here to support you.

Just like we did for Dirk.

‘My Cancer Navigator has played a very important role in how I could cope with my cancer. The objectivity of the information they provided, reassured not only me, but also my wife, Jet. They gave us solace.’


My Cancer Navigator is a free information service from the Anticancer Fund, for patients and physicians. We provide independent, evidence based information to support shared decision making.

For more information:

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Gabry Kuijten

Gabry Kuijten, MD, is the Coordinating Physician of My Cancer Navigator, the personal service for patients and doctors from the Anticancer Fund. Her passion is to support patients in their search for accurate, relevant and understandable information about their illness and treatment options, so they can make well informed decisions. Previously, she worked as an internal medicine specialist in the US, and in the pharmaceutical industry. She's also a copywriter for medical & health related topics and translates medical texts.