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Let's discuss answers to 5 commonly asked questions after a cancer diagnosis

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A cancer diagnosis often leads to many questions. We asked our Facebook and online communities what their first questions were when they were diagnosed. Here are our answers to the most common replies we received:

Am I going to die? (How bad is it?)

It’s normal to worry about dying when diagnosed. But it’s not a question that can be easily answered. Prognosis is a doctors best estimate of how cancer will affect you. Information about your type and stage of cancer, your health, what type of treatments there are and how the cancer responds will all affect your prognosis. Over time, many people start to think instead about living with cancer.
Find out more about prognostic factors and living with cancer.
Am I going to lose my hair?

Hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy, but not all drugs cause hair loss. And in most cases your hair will grow back after chemotherapy is finished. Radiation therapy can cause hair loss, but only where the radiation therapy is given. Radiation therapy to the head often causes permanent hair loss. There are ways to cope with hair loss during treatment.
We have more information on coping with hair loss.

How will my family cope?

If you are diagnosed with cancer, your whole family is affected. Often, how your family deals with your cancer diagnosis and treatment will depend on how they’ve coped with hard times together in the past. Many families become stronger and closer by supporting each other. Other families may have relationships that can’t cope with a cancer diagnosis in the family. Good communication is important.
You can find more tips about coping in your family.
Does this affect my family’s risk of developing cancer?

You may be worried that your cancer diagnosis means that your children are at risk for getting cancer too. Only a few cancers are caused by inheriting a genetic mutation and this can increase a person’s cancer risk. A family history of some cancers may increase cancer risk as well. It’s important for your siblings and children to know about your cancer diagnosis, so they can speak to their doctor.
Learn more about genetic risk for cancer.
What did I do to get this?

It’s normal to wonder why you have cancer. But there are very few cancers that have a single, known cause. Most cancers seem to be the result of a complex mix of many risk factors. Many people get cancer without having any risk factors. It might help to remember that knowing “why” won’t change the course of the illness. Try to focus your energy to help you and your family cope with the disease.
Our information on emotions when you’re diagnosed can help.

Finding the right answers to your questions is important. The answers will help you make the decisions that are right for you. You may find our booklet Questions to Ask about Cancer helpful both in coming up with the right questions and in keeping track of the answers.

It’s normal to have these questions and many others when you’re facing a cancer diagnosis. The Canadian Cancer Society is here to help. Call us at 1 888 939-3333 or email You can also join in on the conversation by responding to our recent discussion



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