Information About Blood Cancers for Patients, Families and Healthcare Professionals

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Frequently Asked Questions

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These are some of the most frequently asked questions The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada (LLSC) receives from patients, their family members, co-workers and friends. If you feel that you need further clarification or if your question has not been answered here, please contact our information specialists using the contact information to the right.

"Newly Diagnosed"

  • Who is the best doctor for my diagnosis?

    Choosing a physician can be a difficult and personal decision. LLSC does not offer a list of the "best" physicians. Factors to consider when choosing a physician are listed below.

    - Is the doctor an oncologist with expertise in treating the specific blood cancer that is suspected or diagnosed?

    - Is the physician's affiliated hospital or treatment centre accredited and experienced in the treatment of blood cancers?

    - Is the physician able to discuss all treatment options like standard treatment and when appropriate, clinical trial options?

    - Are the physician's services and the treatment facility where the physician practices covered by the patient's insurance plan?

    - Is the patient comfortable with the style and level of communication with the physician and their healthcare team?

    - How often will the patient need to visit the physician, and is transportation or the cost of transportation and housing an issue?

    For more information visit our Making Treatment Decisions webpage.

  • How can I find the best treatment centre?

    Selecting a treatment centre that matches your needs is important. You may want to create a list of your requirements and then find ways to best address those needs. The decision about where to get treatment may be based on a recommendation from your medical practitioner, or by the geographic location of your home. Your choice may depend on the diagnosis, treatment (including participation in a clinical trial) and ability and willingness to travel. Visit the Choosing a Specialist or Treatment Centre webpage for more information.

  • What type of doctor specializes in lymphoma?

    Physicians who specialize in the treatment of lymphoma are called hematologists. They are trained in the management of blood-related disorders and specialize in oncology or cancer treatment. They will coordinate all of the care for a patient with lymphoma including ordering the treatments such as chemotherapy. If a stem cell transplant becomes necessary in treating the disease then the hematologist usually works directly with the transplant team.

  • How do I get my medical records from a doctor?

    If you want to have a copy of your medical records, you must submit a written request to the hospital or physician's office. A health care provider must have the patient's written authorization to disclose medical records or the information contained in them. Some hospitals have their own form that needs to be completed. Patients may receive copies of their medical records, however the originals must remain in the physician's or hospital's file.

"Treatment"

  • I'm on chemotherapy and do not know which side effects I need to call my physician about.

    Side effects of treatment with chemotherapy agents are usually discussed with patients before the treatment is started. If detailed information about particular drugs is needed use the booklet entitled Understanding Drug Therapy and Managing Side Effects published by LLS n the United States. From the perspective of the physician the side effects of greatest concern may be fever, breathing difficulties, hives or rashes, rapid heartbeat, confusion, and redness or pain at the IV site. From the patient's perspective, any side effect causing discomfort or limiting usual activity such as diarrhea or nausea is a concern. Report any of these side effects when they first appear. Sometimes the more common side effects can be managed with medications to reduce discomfort.

  • What are clinical trials and how can I learn more about them?

    A cancer clinical trial, sometimes called a research study, is a study conducted by medical scientists to improve the care and treatment of cancer patients. There are clinical trials that test and develop new and improved ways to diagnose and treat cancer in people, prevent or alleviate treatment side effects, help prevent a recurrence of cancer or improve the comfort and quality of life for people with cancer. Clinical trials are important for the treatment of leukemia, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, myeloma, myelodyplastic syndromes or myeloproliferative diseases (blood cancers) because they provide promising new treatment options and offer the hope of increased survival and/or improved quality of life. A treatment that is proven safe and effective in a cancer clinical trial will often be approved by Health Canada and become a standard treatment for future patients with cancer. Visit our Clinical Trials webpage for more information.

"Facts, Statistics and Research"

  • Is leukemia (or lymphoma, myeloma) inherited?

    No. There is little to no evidence that these diseases are inherited. There are genetic components to the diseases and often there are alterations in the DNA but the cause of these changes is unknown and occurs later in life.

  • What are the statistics for the survival of leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma?

    Survival is measured in several ways so it is important to define each measure. The survival statistics are often presented as five-year survival, that is, the percentage of people who survive five years from the date of diagnosis. The five-year survival rates for the blood cancers (for all age groups) are: leukemia 54%; Hodgkin lymphoma 85%; non-Hodgkin lymphoma 67% and myeloma 38%. Leukemia rates by type of disease (for all age groups) are: ALL 65. 2%; CLL 78.4%; AML 23.6% and CML is 56.8%. These figures differ for children ages 0-19 and people over 75.

  • How can I find out the latest research in treating my disease?

    Usually people are looking for the most recent advances in applied or clinical research. The press often reveals these findings and disease outcomes as a news article. Check the News section of this website for updates on blood related cancers. Go to our Clinical Trials section for information on how new treatment options are developed and how to find out about current clinical trial options for your disease. Periodically ask members of your health care team for research updates on your disease and how they might or might not currently apply to the management of your disease. Do not hesitate to ask all members of the health care team including your family physician. The hematologist/oncologist is often the best-informed person in the health care team regarding research advances.

  • What is a remission?

    A remission is a complete disappearance of a disease, usually as a result of treatment. The terms "complete" or "partial" are used to modify the term "remission". Complete remission means all evidence of the disease is gone. Partial remission means the disease is markedly improved by treatment, but residual evidence of the disease is present.

  • What does "Watch and Wait" or "Watchful Waiting" mean?

    Watchful waiting is an approach that is used to closely monitor a patient's condition without giving any treatment until symptoms appear or change. The doctor will monitor patients for disease progression and other signs and symptoms. It is usually recommended for patients in early stages of indolent or chronic forms of blood cancers.

"LLS Services and Support"

last updated on Sunday, March 06, 2011
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