Life changes all of a sudden after an oral cancer diagnosis. You’ll likely be worried about how the diagnosis will affect your physical and emotional health. At the same time, you’re also confronted with the need to grasp what’s happening and to make decisions about your treatment plan.

After being diagnosed, you may feel overwhelmed. During this time, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone and there are many resources available to you.

Here are just some of the steps you can take to regain control of your life after the initial diagnosis:

  • Find out the details of your diagnosis. To start, learn the exact type of cancer you have, including the stage and any details that might affect your treatment and outcomes.
  • Get information about treatment options. Understand what to expect from your treatment and any associated risks, and ask about the chance of successful treatment.
  • Ask your family members and friends for help. This is a hard time, and you shouldn’t have to go through it alone. Ask someone dependable to support you. This person can drive you to your appointments and help you remember important details about your diagnosis and treatment.
  • Do your research. The more you know about your oral cancer, the more prepared you’ll feel.
  • Always consider a second opinion. In many cases, navigating a cancer diagnosis and understanding treatment plans can be confusing and overwhelming. You will be asked to make decisions quickly. A second opinion can help give you confidence in your plan.

Your treatment plan will depend on numerous variables, including the type, location, and stage of cancer you have, your present condition of health, and your objectives and goals for treatment. In early stage cancer, the treatment goal is often to cure the cancer. But in later stages, treatment may focus on reducing symptoms of cancer and helping to prolong your life. Make sure you understand the risks and benefits of treatment, as well as the goals, so you can make the best decisions.

Clinical trials compare a disease treatment known to be effective against one that shows promise to be as good or better. The choice to enter a clinical trial is a personal decision. It’s important to talk about the pros and cons of entering a clinical trial with your entire healthcare or cancer team. You should also discuss it with your family and close friends.

Paying attention to yourself and your needs is especially important during this time. But it’s often the first thing to be neglected. Here are some things you can do for yourself:

  • Exercise as much as you can. A walk around the block after dinner or a yoga class can help you feel better, regain some energy, and take some stress off your plate too.
  • Figure out who you can call. Share your responsibilities, such as child care, laundry, or grocery shopping, with close friends, neighbors, and family members. The more they can take off your plate, the more you can focus on yourself and your needs.
  • Get your finances under control. Financial pressures can add to the anxiety of a cancer diagnosis. You may want to ask a trusted relative or friend for help, or speak with a financial planner sensitive to health issues. Insurance also has a major influence in your treatment and care. Read your insurance policy carefully and talk to the provider about the cancer diagnosis.
  • Keep life as ordinary as possible. Remember, you’re not just a cancer patient, you’re the person you were before the diagnosis.