What to Do if You’re Newly Diagnosed with Colorectal Cancer

doctor talking with patient

You received a colorectal cancer diagnosis. Now what?

Being diagnosed with colon cancer or rectal cancer (known as colorectal cancer) can come suddenly, especially if you weren’t noticing any symptoms. This can leave you with many questions regarding the details of your diagnosis and what to expect over the next several months. At Radiotherapy Clinics of Georgia, we feel the more information you have, the more comfortable and confident you can be about your first oncology appointment.

What Kind of Doctor Should I See Next?

After a colorectal cancer diagnosis, you will meet with several different specialists. Typically, the primary caregiver throughout your treatment is a medical oncologist. The oncologist may request several other tests to better understand the type and stage of your colorectal cancer. Once all of the information is gathered, your medical oncologist will discuss options for your colorectal cancer treatment plan.

You’ll receive a lot of information at this appointment, which can be overwhelming. We encourage you to bring a relative or friend for support. It’s also a good idea to bring a notebook or device to take notes.

Many patients received radiation therapy as part of the colorectal cancer treatment process. This portion of the treatment plan is overseen by a physician called a radiation oncologist. They work very closely with the medical oncologist and surgeon to discuss the right timing for each treatment phase.

When choosing a radiation oncologist, consider a clinic that is convenient for you because radiation therapy is required nearly every weekday over the course of several weeks. We have several different radiation oncologists that you can work with located in the greater Atlanta area including Snellville, Conyers, Decatur, Covington, Blairsville, and Lawrenceville areas.

What to Expect At Your First Radiation Therapy Appointment

If your medical oncologist has recommended radiation therapy as part of your colorectal cancer treatment plan, you will meet with your radiation oncologist before any treatments begin. The radiation oncologist will review your medical records and talk with you about what to expect during your radiation treatment. This is a great time to ask any questions or share concerns you may have.

You’ll also likely to go through a simulation at this appointment. A radiation simulation is a practice run that allows your radiation oncologist to carefully plan your radiation therapy. During the simulation, you will lie flat on your back so scans can be taken of the area that will be treated and so you can be placed on the table where treatments will be given. The radiation oncologist may also put some small mark(s) on your skin making it easier to line up in the exact same position every time.

Questions You Might Ask About Colorectal Cancer Radiation Therapy

Some questions you might want to ask your radiation oncologist might include:

  • Will I have treatment every day?

  • How long does each treatment last?

  • How many weeks will I receive treatment?

  • Who will give me my treatments?

  • Is there a certain type of clothing I should wear on treatment days?

  • How will we know if the treatment is working?

  • In what ways will cancer treatment affect my daily life?

  • What happens if I miss a treatment due to an unexpected circumstance?

  • What side effects might I experience during treatment?

  • What type of long-term side effects are possible?

  • Should I exercise during radiation treatments?

  • Are there any foods I should avoid while under treatment?

  • Will you communicate with the other medical specialists in my care team?

Asking questions such as these when you are diagnosed with colon cancer or rectal cancer can help you better understand your diagnosis and what to expect during treatment. We recommend that you write the following questions in your notebook, so you'll make sure to ask your oncologist.

Can I Wait to Make Decisions About Treatment?

It’s best to start colon and rectal cancer treatment as soon as possible since delaying care could negatively affect your prognosis (likelihood of a full recovery). We are happy to address any other questions or concerns you may have before you start treatment. If you would like a second opinion, schedule an appointment and let your referring physician and oncologist know what is happening. Once you are confident in your cancer care team's decision, you can schedule an appointment at the office that is most convenient for you.

Getting a Second Opinion

It’s important that you’re comfortable with your care team and your treatment plan. Because of this, it’s not uncommon for patients to ask for a second opinion. Talking to another oncologist can help you finalize the best direction for you.

Our radiation oncologist regularly provides second opinions for patients diagnosed with colorectal and other cancers. Most insurance companies will cover a second opinion assessment, but you should always check your coverage with your insurance provider before making an appointment. To schedule a second opinion with one of our oncologists, choose one of our locations that is most convenient for you.

Radiation Therapy for Colorectal Cancer Conveniently Located in the Atlanta Area

We understand the cancer journey looks different for everyone, but you are not alone. You can rest assured that you’ll have a compassionate care team that will help you every step of the way. We hope you will take time to evaluate each of the physicians who will be a part of your care team, and request second opinions to be sure you’re confident in your selections. You can request an appointment by calling a location near you or filling out our online appointment form.