How to Survive Cancer: 10 Things You Need to Know (2024)

Cancer is often described as a "battle" where you have to "fight" to survive. But since the "fight" is never fair,how does someone diagnosed with cancer ensure the best outcome for themselves?

Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be a time of great stress and anxiety. It can be overwhelming, and you may be unsure of the next steps to take. There can be so many unknowns, so developing a plan after diagnosis is an important step to take to ensure you get the best treatment for you.

This article will review things to think about after being diagnosed with cancer, to help guide you as you process the news and work towards healing.

How to Survive Cancer: 10 Things You Need to Know (1)

See an Oncologist

This point may seem obvious to many, but it’s important to cover. Seeing an oncologist (a healthcare provider who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer) is the best way to get the right treatment for your cancer.

There are also different types of oncologists. A medical oncologist most often manages and coordinates your care. If you have radiation therapy, you may see a radiation oncologist. Cancer surgery is often done by a surgical oncologist. If you have gynecological cancer, seeing a gynecological oncologist may be necessary.

If you're unsure which oncologist to see, your primary care provider may have a suggestion. Additionally, online resources such as The American Society of Clinical Oncology can help you find the right oncologist.

What Is an Oncologist?

Find a Specialist

Now that you plan on seeing an oncologist, where do you begin? Your first step may often involve choosing a cancer treatment center rather than an oncologist. Cancer treatment usually involves a multidimensional approach, and cancer centers are a good resource for a cancer care team.

Ask your healthcare provider where they would go if diagnosed with similar cancer. Talk to friends and your family. Connecting with an online cancer community is another excellent way of learning which centers are most active in treating your particular type of cancer.

After looking at what is available, compare the locations of these centers to the regions of the country where you would be most comfortable receiving your care. If you see an oncologist out of state it does not necessarily mean that you will need to receive all of your care there. Some oncologists at the larger cancer centers may recommend specific treatments that can be delivered at a center closer to your home.

Your insurance company can be another source of information. Check-in with your insurance carrier to see what oncologists they cover in your area.

Get Another Opinion

Sometimes people feel uncomfortable asking for a second opinion, but don't let the fear of being uncomfortable keep you from seeking one. Getting a second opinion can help you feel more educated and confident in what treatment is best for you.

National Cancer Institute centers may be a good place for a second opinion, as these centers are selected for their commitment to finding new and effective treatments for cancer.

Educate Yourself

Taking the time to educate yourself about your cancer can help you feel more empowered and in control of your treatment. Ask a lot of questions when you visit your healthcare team.

The amount of information and support for cancer patients is astounding. Free educational materials, emotional support, financial aid, assistance with insurance issues, help with your physical appearance, and dietary recommendations are some of the resources available to you. One of the more comprehensive online resources is the National Cancer Institute.

The Risks of Using the Internet to Self-Diagnose

Seek Support

Support from family, friends, and the cancer community is a very important part of cancer care.

Studies examining the effects of social relationships on illness and mortality have shown that strong social bonds improve survival for various conditions. Looking at cancer alone, a large study found that high levels of perceived social support were associated with a 25% lower risk of death.

Allowing your friends and family to help you is an important step, but it can also be helpful to interact with others who are facing a similar diagnosis.

Take Care of Yourself

Eating healthy and staying physically active not only lower your cancer risk but also increase your chances of surviving cancer and keeping it from returning.

You don't need to train for a marathon to benefit from exercise. Even mild physical activity that's fun, such as gardening twice a week, helps improve outcomes.

It's fairly clear that a good diet reduces the risk of developing cancer in the first place, but as with exercise, we're learning that may make a difference for those with cancer as well. Check out these foods that may help fight cancer cells and why.

Developing good coping skills is an important skill to have while being treated for cancer. People may use different coping strategies and find what can help them improve their quality of life.

Commit To Your Treatment

Whatever treatment plan you and your healthcare provider agree on, stay committed to it. This includes following instructions your treatment team provides and sticking to the schedule. Y

If you're concerned about anything, talk to your healthcare provider about your feelings. Remember that many side effects can be managed, but to address these symptoms, your healthcare provider needs to know they are bothering you.

Top 10 Reasons to Quit Smoking if You Have Cancer

Be Your Own Advocate

Perhaps the most important thing you can do to improve your survival odds with cancer is to be an advocate in your cancer care. No one is as motivated as you to find possible solutions for treating your disease and managing the side effects.

How to Be Your Own Advocate as a Cancer Patient


Getting a cancer diagnosis can be a time of fear and uncertainty. Many things go into fighting cancer, but starting with the basics—such as finding an oncologist you feel confident in—is a good start. Educate yourself with reputable sources, and ask questions.

Finding healthy ways to cope with your stress and following a healthy diet and exercise regimen is beneficial in feeling your best and giving yourself the best opportunity to fight cancer.

A Word From Verywell

You will always be your biggest advocate, so take advantage of this when seeking cancer treatment and care. Never feel pressured to make decisions that make you uncomfortable, and ask as many questions as you need to until you feel comfortable with any plan your oncology team comes up with.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is it called when you survive cancer?

    Cancer survivorship starts when someone is diagnosed with cancer. Anyone who has a diagnosis of cancer can be considered a cancer survivor.

  • What is the chance of surviving cancer?

    The chance of surviving cancer depends upon the type of cancer someone is diagnosed with, and how advanced their cancer is.

  • What is the most common cancer to survive?

    The most common cancers to survive include prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and breast cancer.

7 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Cancer. Net. Types of oncologists.

  2. Cancer.Net. Choosing a cancer treatment center.

  3. National Cancer Institute. Finding health care services.

  4. National Cancer Institute. About cancer.

  5. Holt-lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB. Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS Med. 2010;7(7):e1000316. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316

  6. Rock CL, Thomson CA, Sullivan KR, et al. American Cancer Society nutrition and physical activity guideline for cancer survivors. CA Cancer J Clin. 2022;72(3):230-262. doi:10.3322/caac.21719

  7. Chabowski M, Jankowska-Polańska B, Lomper K, Janczak D. The effect of coping strategy on quality of life in patients with NSCLC. Cancer Manag Res. 2018;10:4085-4093. doi:10.2147/CMAR.S175210

Additional Reading

How to Survive Cancer: 10 Things You Need to Know (2)

By Julie Scott, MSN, ANP-BC, AOCNP
Julie is an Adult Nurse Practitioner with oncology certification and a healthcare freelance writer with an interest in educating patients and the healthcare community.

Originally written byLisa Fayed

See Our Editorial Process

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As an expert and enthusiast, I don't have personal experiences or emotions, but I can provide information and insights on a wide range of topics, including cancer and cancer care. I have been trained on a vast amount of text data, including medical literature, research papers, and reputable sources, which allows me to generate accurate and informative responses.

In the article you shared, the author discusses various aspects of cancer care and how someone diagnosed with cancer can ensure the best outcome for themselves. Let's go through the concepts mentioned in the article:

Seeing an Oncologist

An oncologist is a healthcare provider who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer. It is essential to see an oncologist to receive the right treatment for your specific type of cancer. There are different types of oncologists, such as medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgical oncologists, and gynecological oncologists, depending on the type of treatment needed.

Finding a Specialist

Choosing a cancer treatment center is often the first step after being diagnosed with cancer. Cancer treatment usually involves a multidimensional approach, and cancer centers have specialized teams that can provide comprehensive care. Asking your healthcare provider for recommendations, consulting with friends and family, and exploring online cancer communities can help you find the most suitable treatment center for your specific type of cancer.

Getting Another Opinion

Seeking a second opinion is a valuable step in the cancer treatment process. It can provide you with more information and help you feel more educated and confident in deciding the best treatment option for yourself. National Cancer Institute centers are known for their commitment to finding new and effective cancer treatments and can be a good choice for a second opinion.

Educating Yourself

Taking the time to educate yourself about your specific type of cancer can help you feel more empowered and in control of your treatment. Ask your healthcare team questions and explore reputable sources of information, such as the National Cancer Institute.

Seeking Support

Support from family, friends, and the cancer community is crucial during cancer care. Strong social bonds have been shown to improve survival rates for various conditions, including cancer. Connecting with others who are facing a similar diagnosis can provide valuable emotional support and shared experiences.

Taking Care of Yourself

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for both preventing and surviving cancer. Eating a balanced diet and engaging in regular physical activity can lower your cancer risk and increase your chances of surviving cancer. Even mild physical activities, such as gardening, can have positive effects on outcomes. Additionally, developing good coping skills can help improve your quality of life during cancer treatment.

Committing to Your Treatment

Staying committed to your treatment plan is crucial for the best possible outcome. It is important to follow the instructions provided by your treatment team and communicate any concerns or side effects you may experience. Your healthcare provider can help manage side effects and ensure that your treatment is on track.

Being Your Own Advocate

Being an advocate for your own cancer care is essential. You are the most motivated person to find possible solutions for treating your disease and managing the side effects. Don't hesitate to ask questions, seek additional opinions, and make decisions that align with your comfort level and values.

In summary, receiving a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, but there are steps you can take to ensure the best outcome for yourself. Seek the expertise of an oncologist, consider getting a second opinion, educate yourself about your specific type of cancer, seek support from loved ones and cancer communities, take care of your physical and mental well-being, commit to your treatment plan, and be your own advocate in your cancer care journey.

How to Survive Cancer: 10 Things You Need to Know (2024)


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