Just Diagnosed


Just Diagnosed Being told that you have cancer can turn your world upside down. Many people feel upset, bewildered and off-balance. In the Just Diagnosed section you can find information that KCCC and the community offer. You can

  • Get help with understanding your diagnosis
  • Know who will be part of your team
  • Find resources to help you
  • Find out how you can get support
How Much Do You Need To Know

How much do you need to know How much information should you get from your doctor? This is a difficult question, and the answer depends very much on you and your doctor. There is no “one size fits all” amount of information that every person wants or needs to have about their cancer and its treatment.

Some people like to know all the details. Others prefer to know much less. You may also find that the amount of information you want changes as time goes by. You might want very few details to start with but want more later on.

You are welcome to bring a family member or friend with you to your appointments to help you remember or write down the information you will receive. Many people find that it can sometimes be difficult to absorb all the information on your own.

Even though clinics are often very busy, the goal of your healthcare team is to support you. To help you get the details you want and need:

  • Ask for the information you really want to know.
  • Realize that you'll have several chances to get more information. You don't have to get all the details at once if doing so would be overwhelming.

Make sure you have a good general picture of your situation, if that's what you want. The most important details for you to know are:

  • The type of cancer
  • The grade of the cancer
  • The stage of the cancer
  • What treatment is recommended for your situation

Find out more about Treatment Decision-Making & Questions to Ask.

Understanding Your Diagnoses

Understanding your diagnoses There are several parts to a cancer diagnosis. Your doctor will tell you the type of cancer you have, the stage of the cancer and in some cases the grade of the cancer.

Type Of Cancer

The type of cancer is named after the part of the body where it started. Lung cancer is cancer that starts in the lungs. If cancer has spread (metastasized) to a different part of your body, it is still the same type of cancer. For example, cancer that starts in the lungs but has spread to the bones is called lung cancer with bone metastases.

Stage Of Cancer

For solid tumours, the stage of cancer describes the extent of the cancer in the body. To assign the cancer stage, your doctor will determine:

  • The size and location of the original tumour
  • If, and how much, the cancer has spread to surrounding tissues
  • Whether or not the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes
  • Whether or not the cancer has spread to other parts of the body

The stage of your cancer is determined after a series of tests and often after surgery. The tests may include:

  • Physical examination: A physical exam may show the location and size of the tumour(s) and the spread of the cancer to the lymph nodes or to other organs.
  • Imaging studies: Pictures of the inside of the body, such as x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and positron emission tomography (PET) scans, can show the location of the cancer, the size of the tumour and whether the cancer has spread.
  • Laboratory tests: Studies of blood, urine, other fluids and tissues taken from the body can provide information about the cancer and how the cancer may be affecting the organs in the body.
  • Pathology studies: A biopsy (removal and study of a small tissue sample) may be performed to provide information for the pathology report. A pathology report gives details about the size of the tumour, the growth of the tumour into other tissues and organs, the type of cancer cells and the grade of the tumour. Cytology reports describe the results of examination of cells in body fluids.
  • Surgery: Surgical reports tell what was found during surgery and describe the size and appearance of the tumour. These reports often include observations about lymph nodes and nearby organs.

Knowing the stage of your cancer can help your healthcare team choose the most effective treatment.

Note: Cancer staging is not used for most cancers of the blood.

Grade Of Cancer

The grade of the cancer classifies the cancer cells based on how they look and act. A pathologist will view the cancer cells under a microscope to find out how different they appear from your normal cells, how quickly they multiply and how likely they are to spread to new locations.

Different types of cancer use different grading systems. In general, tumours are graded low, medium or high.

  • Low-grade tumours have cells that look and act like the healthy cells around them. A low-grade tumour grows slowly, and is not aggressive or likely to spread.
  • Medium-grade tumours have a mix of high-grade and low-grade tumour cells or they look and act between the extremes of high-grade and low-grade tumours.
  • High-grade tumours have cells that look very different from the healthy cells around them. A high-grade tumour grows faster and is more likely to spread than a low-grade tumour.

The grade of a tumour is useful for most types of cancer, but not all. Knowing the grade of the cancer helps with planning your treatment and measuring how well treatment is working.

You can ask your healthcare team for copies of your reports and test results.

People On Your Healthcare Team



An oncologist is a doctor who specializes in treating people with cancer. There are several different kinds of oncologists: medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and surgical oncologists. You may have more than one oncologist on your healthcare team, depending on your treatment plan.

Medical Oncologist

Medical Oncologist Medical oncologists are doctors who specialize in using drugs to treat cancer. They:

  • Determine what medications you need for chemotherapy
  • Plan the course of your chemotherapy treatment
  • Examine you to ensure that the chemotherapy is working

Radiation Oncologist

Radiation oncologists are doctors who specialize in treating cancer with radiation therapy. They:

  • Prescribe a treatment plan for each patient
  • Monitor your progress throughout radiation therapy treatment
  • Help identify and manage side effects of radiation therapy treatment

Surgical Oncologist

Surgical oncologists are doctors who specialize in using surgery to treat cancer. They:

  • Perform biopsies
  • Plan and perform surgery to treat cancer and manage symptoms

Plastic Surgeon

Plastic surgeons are doctors who specialize in restoring and improving physical appearance by reshaping the body, sometimes with the use of implants or prostheses (artificial parts).


Psychiatrists are doctors specially trained in mental health. They can help you and your family learn how to cope with the emotional distress of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. They offer counselling, consultations and drug therapy for patients and family members.


Radiologists are doctors who examine and interpret the results of medical imaging tests to diagnose cancer and track the progress of cancer treatment. They also perform biopsies when the biopsy is guided by x-ray or ultrasound.


A pathologist is a doctor who studies samples of tumours and healthy tissues under a microscope. Pathologists can help to determine the stage, grade and type of cancer. They can also see whether the treatment is having an effect on the cancer.

Oncology Dentist

Oncology dentists are dentists who specialize in the care of people with cancer. They customize a personal preventive oral care plan, make sure your mouth is healthy before your cancer treatment and help you maintain your dental health during and after treatment.


Oncology Nurse

Oncology nurses are nurses who specialize in the care of people with cancer. They:

  • Provide pain and symptom management
  • Deliver care and assistance during your review and follow-up appointments

Nurses often have the most contact with people being treated for cancer. They can provide you with information, emotional support and practical support.

Nurses administer chemotherapy, assist with radiation therapy, care for patients in inpatient care centees and work with patients in many other areas of the hospital.

Allied Health Staff


Psychologists are mental health specialists. They are experts in assessing, diagnosing and treating mental health conditions, such as problems with thinking and memory (neurocognitive disorders), emotional disturbances and behavioural disorders. They can help you and your family improve and maintain the best possible quality of life and well-being.


Physiotherapists assess your strength, balance and coordination as well as your ability to walk and move around safely. The physiotherapist may design a plan to help you improve your physical strength and independence.


Dietitians assess your nutritional health and identify and treat nutrition problems. They can help you:

  • Manage symptoms through eating
  • Stay hydrated
  • Develop a personal nutrition therapy program
  • Control weight loss or weight gain
  • Understand the risks and benefits of complementary or alternative diet therapies

In one-on-one consultations, a dietitian works with you to plan a healthy diet for you during and after cancer treatment. The dietitian will help you modify your plan as things change.

Social Worker

Social workers can help you and your family with the emotional and practical aspects of coping with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. They provide counselling and can help with:

  • Emotional matters, such as dealing with fear, anxiety, sadness, anger and a sense of loss
  • Financial matters, such as income support, drug costs and disability pensions
  • Practical matters, such as transportation, home support and referrals to community resources

Social workers can help you and your family take an active role in your treatment decision-making and can help ease your transition back home after a hospital stay.

Other Professional Staff

Medical Imaging Technologist

Medical imaging technologists care for you while you are having medical imaging done, such as an MRI, CT scan or ultrasound. Medical imaging technologists also operate the equipment to conduct the procedure.

Medical Physicist

Medical physicists are healthcare professionals who specialize in the physics of radiation therapy. They:

Medical imaging technologists care for you while you are having medical imaging done, such as an MRI, CT scan or ultrasound. Medical imaging technologists also operate the equipment to conduct the procedure.

Medical physicists are healthcare professionals who specialize in the physics of radiation therapy. They:

  • Make sure that the radiation treatment machine delivers the correct amount of radiation to the correct area of your body
  • Verify that your treatment plan is safe and precise
  • Develop and direct quality-control programs for equipment and procedures


  • Review medication orders and double-check them to make sure they are correct
  • Help ensure patient safety
  • Give you information about your medications
  • Tell you how to safely take your medications

Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists are medical technologists who specialize in radiation therapy. They:

  • Develop the treatment plan with your radiation oncologist and medical physicists
  • Deliver the radiation treatment and ensure that it is accurate and precise
  • Monitor your progress and provide support and advice during your treatments

If you receive radiation therapy for your cancer, you will see your radiation therapists every time you go for a treatment session. You can talk to them about any questions or concerns you may have, such as side effects or scheduling issues. They can also recommend other specialists and professionals when you need one.

Communicating With Your Healthcare Team

Communicating with your healthcare team It is important for you to feel comfortable talking with the members of your healthcare team. You may meet some members of your team only once or twice, such as in the blood lab or at a medical imaging appointment. You may end up knowing others for many years, such as your doctor (oncologist) or nurses.

Either way, these people are involved in your healthcare at a time when you are facing cancer. Being able to communicate with them is a very important part of your care.

When you are diagnosed with cancer, you may not know much about the disease or treatment, or about the people who work in cancer-related health and community centres. There are lots of questions and lots of information that need to be shared between you and your healthcare team. You need to know the details of the type of cancer you have, what your future holds, treatment options, financial considerations, support services, community resources and more. Your healthcare team needs to know things like your medical history, how you’re feeling, what support you need and more.

If you feel anxious and overwhelmed, it can be difficult to think about how to communicate with your healthcare team to ensure you get the answers you need and that they get the information they require to treat you properly. But you and your team have the same goal: to treat your cancer as effectively as possible. It is helpful to remember this if you are feeling intimidated in the hospital environment.

Clinics can get busy and people can be stressed, but you've been building successful relationships all your life and you can do it now too. You already have lots of skills to help you get the care you need. Think about what works in other areas of your life: sometimes a kind word can make all the difference in making a connection with someone you’ve just met or don't see frequently.

Other times you may need to stand up for yourself if you feel you're not getting all the facts that are important to you. If you don’t feel that you have enough energy to do that, consider asking a friend or family member to help you get what you need.

The clinic and hospital environments can sometimes be intimidating. If you feel unable to express yourself, remember that your healthcare team wants to give you whatever help and support you need. All you need to do is ask.

To make communication easier:

  • Be yourself! Your own unique way of connecting with others will help you communicate with your team.
  • Establish a connection based on a common interest. This will help you relax and make you feel comfortable.
  • Be as specific as possible when asking questions. Keep asking until you get the answer you need.
  • Be open and honest about what you are experiencing so that you can be treated properly and get the support you need.
  • Enjoy the relationships that can develop between you and members of your team.