Q: What Should I Bring To My First Visit?
- A Support Person: We highly recommend for your first visit that you bring a family member or friend who can take notes and provide support for you.
- Something for Taking Notes: It will be helpful for you and/or your support person to bring a pen and notepad or tablet to capture important parts of your discussion. Ask questions if you do not understand something.
- List of Medications: It is important that your care team knows all medications you are taking, as well as vitamins, minerals, herbal or natural substances, and over-the-counter medications such as pain relievers and allergy pills.
- List of Allergies: Please inform your doctor of any allergies that you have.
- List of Physicians: Please provide the names, office addresses and phone numbers of any doctors you have seen in the past year so we can share any necessary information about your healthcare status -- with your permission, of course.
- Medical Records: It is best that we receive your healthcare records prior to your appointment so your doctor may review the information ahead of your arrival. If you are not able to send your records in advance, please bring them with you.
- Insurance Information: Please bring your health insurance card with you. If your insurance requires a referral, please provide us with a copy. If you do not currently have health insurance or have questions about your health insurance, please call 518.243.1695.
- Prescription Plan: Please bring your prescription plan or discount cards, including EPIC, Medicare-D and PACE.
- Preferred Pharmacy: If you have a regular or preferred pharmacy, you can provide us with its name, address and phone number during your initial visit. We also have a specialty pharmacy onsite for convenient pick-up of cancer-related medications.
Q: Who Will I First Meet With?
A: New patients first meet with the medical director of the Roswell Park Care Network site at Ellis, Tallat Mahmood, MD, our medical oncologist.
Dr. Mahmood previously served as medical director of the Memorial Healthcare Cancer Center in Owosso, Michigan, a state in which she has spent most of her 20-plus-year career treating all cancers. More recently, Dr. Mahmood spent a year teaching at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, before moving to the Capital Region.
Dr. Mahmood earned her medical degree from Aga Khan University Medical College in Karachi, Pakistan, completed an internal medicine residency from West Virginia University and a Hematology/Oncology Fellowship from Tulane University in New Orleans.
Q: What Questions Might I Want to Ask?
A: We will give you as much or as little information as you want to help you make decisions about your care. You might want to ask questions like:
- What type of cancer do I have and what stage is it?
- What does it mean that I have that stage of cancer?
- Should I be seeing any other doctors?
- How do Roswell Park second opinions work?
- Why do you recommend these treatments?
- Can I get all these treatments here at Ellis Medicine?
- Do these treatments have side effects? Can I control the side effects?
- Is there a clinical trial I can enroll in?
- Should any of my other family members get tested for this type of cancer?
- When is my first treatment? Do I need other tests first?
- How long will my treatment last? Can I still do activities I love?
Q: Are there symptoms of cancer?
A: With so many different types of cancer, it's hard to make a list of symptoms. Some cancers have a lot of symptoms, even from early on, while others show no symptoms until they are very advanced cancers.
In general, these are the most common symptoms of cancer people experience:
- A lump on your body, unusual swelling or recent change in a mole/wart
- A persistent sore that won't heal
- Unusual bleeding or a bodily discharge
- Changes in bladder or bowel habits
- Persistent cough or hoarseness
- Trouble swallowing
- Gaining or losing a lot of weight
- Night sweats
Q: Is there a cure for cancer?
A: There is not a single cure for cancer, but there are many effective treatments to get rid of cancer cells and stop them from coming back. Early detection gives you the best treatment options for getting rid of cancer.
Every day, new and promising clinical trials and research studies from around the world give new hope for a cancer cure.
Q: What kind of cancer treatments are available?
A: We treat cancer in different ways depending on the type of cancer, how big it is, where it is and how advanced it is. Surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy/drugs are the most common treatments. Your doctor will use tests like images or blood tests to determine what type of treatment might work best for you.
If you are unsure about your treatment, you should always talk to your doctor. You can always get a second opinion to make sure you are making the right decision for your health and lifestyle.
Q: Can cancer be prevented?
A: In most cases, you can't prevent cancer. But you can work to lower your risk of cancer by:
- not smoking or using tobacco
- avoiding excessive alcohol use
- eating a healthy diet
- exercising regularly
- knowing symptoms of cancer/being aware of changes in your body
- getting recommended cancer screenings at the recommended age, especially if cancer runs in your family
- protecting your skin with regular sunscreen use
Q: If I have a cancer diagnosis, what should I do next?
A: A cancer diagnosis can make you feel sad, mad, confused or scared. We recommend bringing someone with you when talking with your doctor so you have help remembering and sorting through information. This is a stressful and emotional time, so having a support person is very important.
Make sure you understand the type of cancer you have, the stage it is (how advanced it is) and where it is in your body.
Also, make sure you ask:
- whether a tumor or mass is considered malignant or benign
- whether it's slow or fast growing
- what your outlook is
- what treatment options are available and what the side effects and success rates are for each treatment option
Never hesitate to call your cancer care team to ask questions, get advice or receive support. At Ellis Medicine, we have a nurse navigator who can support you with any of these questions. We also have experienced cancer experts and caregivers who are available to guide and support you.
If you are not sure what treatment option is right for you, please consider getting a second opinion. Your treatment is your decision, so you deserve to be as informed as possible.
Q: When should I see an oncologist or other cancer specialist?
A: When you have cancer, you should always see a medical oncologist (a doctor who specializes in caring for cancer). Depending on your specific cancer, you might also see a radiation oncologist (a doctor who specializes in using radiation to kill cancer cells), a surgical oncologist (a doctor who specializes in removing cancer), and a doctor who specializes in caring for the area where your cancer is located (such as a dermatologist for skin cancer or urologist for bladder cancer).
For more information about cancer care at Ellis Medicine, please call 518.243.4762.