New Patients

Walking the labyrinth

The definition of a labyrinth:
  • a place that has many confusing paths or passages
  • something that is extremely complicated or difficult to understand

As a new patient at Grand Valley Oncology, we want you to feel comfortable, cared for and informed. We know being told you have cancer is a stressful and confusing time. It is like walking the labyrinth. We are here to guide you in this journey every step of the way.

Your first appointment will be comprehensive, so you should plan to spend an hour or more with us. Please arrive 20 minutes before your appointment to complete a few forms. Your appointment might include the following:

  • New patient evaluation with your physician
  • Any additional tests needed for accurate diagnosis to help guide your treatment plan
  • Meeting with your nurse and other members of your care team
  • Meeting with one of our patient benefits representatives to discuss your insurance and billing questions

A lot of information is discussed in that initial visit, so you may find it helpful to bring another person with you. We also encourage you and your family to ask questions about any information that is not clear, or need further explanation.

What to bring

It is important that we have an accurate medical history and understand any previous care you have received so we can provide you with the most appropriate and effective cancer care. Please bring the following items to your first appointment:

  • Medications- prescription, OTC, supplement, herbal
  • Family History - particularly 1st degree and 2nd degree relatives diagnosed with cancer including age at diagnosis and type of cancer
  • Insurance Card and Photo ID- our office will attempt to obtain your medical records; however, we may contact you if we need your assistance.
If you have a cancer diagnosis: All surgical pathology reports pertaining to diagnosis. Latest lab work: especially blood counts. Any previous films and reports: PET scans, CT scans, MRI, X-ray, Mammogram. Any previous chemotherapy/radiation treatment notes. Physician’s progress notes.

If you have a blood disorder: Lab work for the last 3 -5 years, especially blood counts. Any previous films and reports: PET scans, CT scans, MRI, X-ray, Mammogram. Any previous bone marrow pathology reports. Physician’s progress notes.


What is Cancer?

Cancer is not one disease, but a general term covering many distinct diseases. Each type of cancer has patterns that may differ from other types of cancer, and the same type often affects one person differently from another.

What are the different types Of cancer?

The main types of cancers are: carcinoma, sarcoma, lymphoma, leukemia and myeloma.

  • Carcinomas are the most common types of cancer. They arise from the cells that cover external and internal body surfaces such as the skin, lung, breast, and colon.
  • Sarcomas are cancers arising from cells found in the supporting tissues of the body such as bone, cartilage, fat, connective tissue and muscle.
  • Lymphomas are cancers that arise in the lymph nodes and tissues of the body's immune system.
  • Leukemia is cancer that starts in immature blood cells that grow in the bone marrow and causes abnormal blood cells to accumulate in large numbers in the bloodstream.
  • Myeloma is a cancer that develops in the plasma cells of bone marrow.

What causes cancer?

Cancer cells develop because of damage to DNA, a substance in every cell that directs all activity of the cell. Usually when DNA becomes damaged, the body is able to repair it; however, sometimes it is not repaired and the cell becomes abnormal. Scientists are working to better understand what causes DNA to become damaged. Some people inherit damaged DNA, which accounts for inherited cancers. More often, though, a person's DNA becomes damaged by environmental factors or individual behaviors such as smoking.

What are the signs and symptoms of cancer?

Symptoms of cancer may vary. The following list includes signs of cancer of unknown primary:

  • Lump or thickening in any part of the body
  • Pain that does not go away in one part of the body
  • Unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Coughing or hoarseness that does not go away
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge
  • Change in bowel or bladder habits
  • Fever that does not go away
  • Night sweats
Many other health problems can also cause these signs. If you have any of these signs, please talk to your doctor.

What is staging?

Staging is the process of determining how far the cancer has spread. It is important to know the stage of the cancer before determining which treatment options are best. Most often, physicians use the TNM system for staging. This system gives three key pieces of information:

  • T describes the size of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread to nearby tissue and organs.
  • N describes how far the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • M shows whether the cancer has spread (metastasized) to other organs of the body.

What are treatment options for cancer?

Because there are so many variables, different types of treatments may be required and no one treatment is right for everyone. That's why our physicians at Grand Valley Oncology customize a treatment plan to meet each patient's specific diagnosis, needs and condition.

Standard types of treatment for cancer are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and biological therapy. These treatments may be used alone, but often combined to maximize the patients’ long-term survival. Surgery and radiation therapy are considered local treatments, as they target the cancer cells in the tumor and near it. Chemotherapy, hormone therapy and biological therapy are systemic treatments, meaning they travel through the bloodstream reaching cancer cells all over the body. Patients should work closely with their Oncologist to determine the best individualized treatment options.

Is there a cure for cancer?

Today, there is no cure. Tremendous scientific advances have significantly extended patient survival rates, and many patients today will never have recurrence of their disease. However, even after successful treatment, there may remain cancerous or precancerous cells in the body. Cancer patients must maintain a high level of vigilance for the rest of their life, as the risk still remains.

What is the survival rate of cancer?

The number of people with a history of cancer in the United States has increased dramatically, from 3 million in 1971 to about 13.7 million today. About 64% of today's cancer survivors were diagnosed with cancer five or more years ago. And, approximately 15% of all cancer survivors were diagnosed 20 or more years ago.
Source: National Cancer Institute Office of Cancer Survivorship

What is a community-based cancer care?

Community-based cancer care integrates all aspects of outpatient cancer care, from laboratory and diagnostic imaging capabilities, to chemotherapy and radiation therapy in treatment centers located within patients’ communities. It is based on the concept that providing convenient, high-quality care closer to patients and their support networks aids the maintenance of quality of life and improves patient adherence to therapy, a crucial element in the treatment process.

What will my medical insurance cover?

Our patient benefit representative are available to meet with you to discuss your medical insurance coverage, what it will cover and what it will not cover, your out-of-pocket expenses and your co-pay expenses. We will verify your coverage and pre-authorize services performed in our office, as required by your insurance company. The patient benefit representatives will assist you in understanding your medical insurance coverage and your financial responsibilities for any uncovered expenses.