People often ask cancer survivors if they have cancer, and that can be a tricky question to answer. If you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer and are in the early stages of treatment, it’s tempting to say yes and let others know for fear of what might come. However, there is a chance that you could have the same type of cancer as before (called secondary malignant neoplasia or SM), which would increase the risk of developing the same type of cancer again in the future. The good news is that there are many things you can do to reduce your risk, such as getting regular check-ups and staying active. Check out our article on how to respond when someone asks you if you have cancer.
Know the difference between a diagnosis and a screening test
Screening tests are used to find certain diseases at an early stage, such as a cancer screening test for cervical cancer or a test to determine if you have cancer. However, the tests are not 100% accurate and can produce many false-positive results. Therefore, no results are 100% accurate and will only indicate a high risk of developing a condition if you already have it. A Pap test, for example, may detect signs of cervical cancer but does not guarantee that you have the disease. A diagnosis is when a doctor has looked at all the signs and symptoms, taken a medical history, and done a physical examination. If they think you have a disease, they will give you medicine or send you to a specialist. A diagnosis can be helpful because you know what you have and can get treatment. A diagnosis also helps doctors track how other people are affected by a condition and may find new treatments that can help others in the future.
Be honest about your cancer risk factors
You probably already know your cancer risk factors, like if you have increased genetic mutations that put you at higher risk of certain cancers. Being open and honest with others about these risk factors is now critical. Having conversations about these factors can be difficult, but it’s important to start early. For instance, if you know a family member is at risk of developing kidney cancer, you may want to ask them about their risk factors to understand their cancer risk better. In addition, having conversations with your friends and family about these cancer risk factors can be helpful. Talking about cancer may be difficult, but it can help reduce the risk of other people developing the same cancer in the future.
Have a conversation about prevention and detection
Prevention is the best way to reduce your cancer risk and can be done in many ways, including through diet, exercise, and screening. Several screening tests can be done to detect cancer, including Pap and HPV tests. Pap tests are often recommended for women before the age of 30 who do not have a history of cervical cancer. HPV tests are more commonly used for men and women with no history of the virus but who might still develop certain cancers. There are many types of HPV; many people will never be infected with the virus and experience no symptoms. However, some people may develop HPV-related cancers, such as anal and oral cancers. Prevention is a great way to reduce your cancer risk, as you may lower your chances of developing HPV, HPV-related cancers, or other cancers by eating a healthy diet and staying active. You might also benefit from tests that can find cancer in its early stages. There are many ways to reduce your cancer risk, so don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor or health provider about prevention and detection.
Tell everyone you’re not sick, but no one is allowed to ask if you have cancer
One of the most important things you can do after being diagnosed with cancer is to inform everyone that you are not ill but have cancer. It may be hard to do, but it’s important to let others know so they don’t feel bad asking questions or asking you to clean, shop, or babysit. It’s also important to let others know so you can keep your privacy, as some people may not understand why you need to keep your condition private. For instance, some people may want to be your friend or want to hang out with you, but others may not understand why they can’t ask you questions or visit you. Be sure to tell your family, friends, and health provider that you don’t want people to ask you to do things or be their friend.
Don’t let fear stop you from doing activities you love
Some people are scared to do activities they once loved, like going to the beach, hiking, or even something as simple as washing their car. While those activities may seem scary, they can also help you stay active and feel well. Keeping busy and feeling good may help you feel less anxious, deal with cancer treatment better, and get better after it. If you are scared to do activities you once loved, it’s important to talk to your health provider, family, and a friend. Letting others know you are scared to do certain activities can help you feel better and cope with cancer treatment.
Cancer is often a scary experience, and some people may be scared of what they have been diagnosed with. When someone asks you if you have cancer, be honest about your risk factors, tell them you don’t feel well but have cancer, and don’t let fear stop you from doing activities you love. These can help you reduce your cancer risk and feel better, which can help you have a better quality of life after treatment. We hope these tips help you be as prepared as possible when someone asks you if you have cancer.
Dr. Ronald Bissell is a retired surgeon, author of 6 books on Personal and Spiritual Growth, writer of numerous articles and facilitator of workshops. He has been giving talks to help people with life-threatening diseases for the past 10 years. After three years of chemotherapy he recently had a bone marrow transplant to treat Multiple Myeloma. His work now involves helping others with life-threatening diseases as well as teaching people how to live their best lives without fear or anxiety.