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Patient Education and Support

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A white short sleeved t-shirt hanging over a chair that says survivorship celebration.

We're here for you through your journey

Patient Education and Support

As a new patient at Penn State Cancer Institute, you may have questions about your health care journey with us. The physicians, nurses and staff want to make sure you have all of the resources and information you need before, during, and after your treatment. You'll receive a copy of our patient guide at your first appointment and your health care team will review what's included.

Your first visit

What to Bring

A cancer diagnosis or suspicion of cancer is likely to be a time full of anxiety and questions. Many people find it useful and comforting to bring a family member or a close friend to their first appointment.

Additionally, there are several items you should bring with you:

  • Questions for your doctor. Many people find it useful to prepare a list of questions before their first visit.
  • Medical records about your current case
  • Medical images (x-rays, CAT scans, MRIs, etc.). You may need to request these from where you received the imaging services. They may give you these as either a printed "film" or on a computer CD.
  • Pathology slides which are the actual slides that were made from a biopsy. If you have these, please bring them with you. Otherwise, the clinic staff will work with you to obtain these from your previous doctor.
  • Your insurance card
  • Driver’s license
  • Payment (this will vary by insurance)

What to Expect

Your first visit with your physician is likely to be different than other doctors' visits that you've had. Compared to a visit to a family physician, the cancer doctor is likely to spend more time with you and ask you more questions about your health and the health history of your family members.

You may be asked to give blood or scheduled for diagnostic tests such as a CT, an MRI or other kinds of imaging. You may also be scheduled to visit other types of physicians who work with your main physician to ensure that you receive the best care.

Nurse Coordinator

A nurse coordinator will be assigned to you. The nurse coordinator assigned to you has specific expertise with your specific disease. Your nurse coordinator will be the connection between you and your doctor. Your nurse coordinator should be the first person you call with non-emergency medical issues.

Managing Common Side Effects

Side effects can be a distressing and sometimes challenging part of any treatment for cancer. We are here to help you manage any side effects associated with your treatment plan. Your physician and nurse will give you information on which side effects should be reported immediately and which ones can be discussed with your physician or nurse at your next visit. However, if you have concerns about a side effect you are experiencing, or side effects interfere with your ability to eat or drink enough fluids, you should contact your nurse or physician.

Helpful information can be found in specific booklets from the National Cancer Institute. They are available as hard copy; view on-line, or for download as pdf to your electronic device.

Some titles you may find helpful are: