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Managing Colorectal Cancer

Managing the disease

First Steps

We know this process can be overwhelming, but we’re here to help along every step of the way.

talking to family and friends..

Sharing your diagnosis

  • People who live alone away from family often have a few extra needs compared to those who live with others. Let close friends know what’s happening.
  • Think ahead so you can tell them what they can do when they ask how they can help. Be as specific as possible about the kind of help you need. For example, tell them when you need a ride to the doctor, or find out if they might be able to help with house cleaning, yard work, or child care. There will be times when you don’t know what you need, but even just saying that will be helpful. It also gives them a chance to offer something they can do for you.
  • As you talk with others, you may want to write down the questions that come up so you can discuss them with your cancer care team.
  • Tell the people close to you how you’re feeling, this is sometimes hard to do, but it’s healthy to let others know about your sadness, anxiety, anger, or other emotional distress. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, you may want to find a support group or a mental health counselor to help you.
  • When you keep other people involved and informed about your illness, it helps ease your burden.
  • Friends and family can share their strength and concern with you and with each other, which can be helpful for everyone involved.

Things to consider

Questions to ask as you start your journey

Know your options and be your strongest advocate. Become an ally to your health.

If possible, seek a second opinion from a National Cancer Institute before surgery, chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Research your care center. Is it a community hospital or a teaching hospital? Teaching hospitals are often on the forefront of new research.

Interview more than one surgeon if time allows.

Check to see if your surgeon is a Board-Certified Colorectal Surgeon. Studies show the recurrence rate for patients using colorectal surgeons are significantly less than using a general surgeon for colorectal cancer surgery. The more surgeries the doctor performs each year, the better.

Before surgery

Do you have an accessible home or do you need to move things to another room for easier access, upstairs to downstairs? Set this room up before your surgery.

Nest before surgery — clean the house, pay the bills, stock the freezer and cupboards so you can relax and focus on recovery when you get home.

General tips

  • Take a notebook with you to appointments for questions.
  • Enlist a family member or friend to accompany you to appointments for note taking.
  • Review your health and life insurance policies, know your deductibles, copays and coverage.
  • Keep a copy of all your medical records and bring them to appointments.
  • Download a health app to your phone. Put all your medical issues and medicines on it.
  • Ask your doctor about getting a flu shot.
  • Ask yourself “Why will I survive this?” Finding your reason to live can be important motivation.
  • Find ways to de-stress your life.
  • Regardless of stage, this is a good time to create a living will, DNR, etc.
  • Make sure a trusted loved one knows passwords to bank accounts, etc.
  • If childbearing age, ask fertility questions before treatment.
  • Have a list of Babysitters for children where caretakers can see it in case of emergency.
  • Check with your cancer center to see if they offer integrative medicine. Patients that do the best combine complementary therapies such as acupuncture, massage, nutritional supplements, exercise, yoga, reiki with western medicines of chemotherapy. Many integrative oncologists will work closely with your oncologist to ensure that it doesn’t interfere with chemotherapy.
  • Ask a family member or friend to set up a blog on sites like and This makes notifying family and friends easier with medical updates, meals, assist with chores, walking the dog etc. People want to help, make it easy for them.
  • Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint, so save your energy where you can.


The recommendations on this page are based on literature from the American Society of Clinical Oncology and American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.



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