Health-care consulting for families facing a cancer diagnosis - Part 5

Cancer Champions offers compassionate guidance and clarity to you and your loved ones throughout your cancer journey.

As your trusted guide, we empower you and your family with knowledge and confidence to make informed decisions about your cancer care and regain your peace of mind.
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With Cancer Champions,
You Don’t Have to Face Cancer Alone

If you or a loved one is feeling overwhelmed and anxious by a cancer diagnosis, compassionate support is available. Cancer Champions can ease your fear and uncertainty by helping you and your loved ones understand your specific disease, collect personalized healthcare information, evaluate your treatment options, and make informed decisions. 

Combining oncology knowledge with genuine compassion makes Cancer Champions a trusted advisor that complements your cancer care team and provides peace of mind throughout your cancer journey. Call Dana to learn more about how she can help to create a personalized roadmap to guide you and your family.


When you are presented with a difficult diagnosis, most likely you don’t know what you don’t know yet. Because I have professional healthcare experience and have personally been through several cancer journeys, I compassionately work with you to create a personalized roadmap to help you and your family navigate the journey. I also provide resources and informationto to help you take the first steps.


When you are making critical decisions — you need access to the most relevant information, tailored to your unique situation. With both professional and personal experience researching treatment options and supportive care solutions for individuals facing cancer, I am uniquely qualified to offer families the types of information and resources they will need to make better informed decisions about their care.


Upon hearing a cancer diagnosis, emotions often take control and inhibit decision making. Anxiety and fear may stifle important conversations that family members and loved ones need to have with the individual fighting cancer. I can help to facilitate these important but difficult conversations, with compassion and a kind and open heart.

From our inbox:

When my father was diagnosed with cancer I was in shock — and living 600 miles away. I knew he had been dealing with prostate cancer several years earlier, but I had no idea his cancer had returned and was so advanced.  

Dana was a true blessing. She went to see my father and assessed the situation quickly. Her knowledge of cancer was critical. She listened to the doctors and asked the right questions. She was far better equipped than us to discern what the doctors were saying — and counsel us appropriately. She monitored my father during his stay in the hospital and helped us navigate the transition to hospice. Dana was compassionate and a true professional all the way through to the end.

The nicest thing about working with Dana is her compassion. She has experienced the loss of her own parent to cancer and knows the confusion, uncertainty, and heartbreak involved. She is able to professionally communicate with the medical staff and gather the correct information — and translate it to us in an understandable way. Dana cried with us, prayed with us and was not afraid to be honest. I respected that.

— L.P., Atlanta, Ga

From our inbox:

As someone diagnosed with a rare, aggressive cancer just 5 months ago, I was overwhelmed and confused. I wasn’t sure whether my doctors were doing what I needed. I asked Dana to review my case and it was the best thing I’ve done since diagnosis. I’m so grateful I made the decision to work with Dana. For a very reasonable fee, she actually did more than expected. She is smart, organized, prompt, and compassionate. I am now much more confident regarding treatment options and what my doctors should be doing. My head has stopped spinning and I can sleep at night. Worth every penny.

— Lori R

From our inbox:

“It’s difficult to express in words the importance of an advocate when faced with a life-changing scenario like cancer. Dana was amazing, providing incredible counsel and guidance that was critical in the early days of our diagnosis. I could not imagine going through this again without the caring, loving expertise that Dana Hutson brought to our family. She is an angel.”


From our inbox:

“5 stars is just not enough for Dana Hutson. Dana has been a godsend to our family.  We lost my elderly father with Dementia after a cascade of events resulting from an ER visit.   My family has been struggling to bring closure to this situation.

I met Dana after a presentation she gave . During the presentation she gave an example that exactly described the experience we had at the hospital with my father. We hired Dana to go back and research the entire 30 day hospital experience and assist us in understanding what happened. Dana spent numerous hours reviewing hundreds of pages of notes from 4 different hospitals.

Our experience is far too common across the country. Unfortunately, we didn’t meet Dana until after my father’s death. If we had had Dana’s guidance, our family’s  outcome may have been radically different. I highly recommend seeking Dana’s assistance in advocating and supporting you during any type of medical situation. We will forever be grateful to Dana for bringing closure to our family.”


From our inbox:

“Money can’t pay you back for the wisdom you provided my family.”

From our inbox:

“You have been an angel that came into our lives…we could not be on this journey without you…”

From our inbox:

” working with Dana has been an absolute blessing for my family. She was able to quickly assess my mom’s situation and immediately offer solutions that made a difference. Her knowledge and tireless legwork is a gamechanger for families trying to negotiate the healthcare system.”


7 Questions to Ask Your Oncologist

It’s helpful to have a list of questions to ask your doctor when you are presented with a cancer diagnosis. Here are 7 questions to ask at your next doctor’s appointment.

Recent articles

What is Palliative Care? Should you consider it?

Palliative Care does not equal hospice.

The objective of both is to provide pain and symptom relief, however, there are important differences.

Hospice care is provided without curative intent.   Either there are no longer curative options available or the decision has been made to no longer pursue treatment because the side effects outweigh the anticipated benefit of the treatment.

Palliative care may be provided with or without curative intent.

Who is eligible for palliative care?

Cancer is a serious illness that touches all areas of a patient’s life as well as the lives of his/her loved ones. People with serious illnesses, like cancer, are eligible for palliative care.

Some of the physical effects of cancer on the individual include:

  • Pain
  • Loss of appetite, nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Neuropathy

Some of the ways family and loved ones are affected include:

  • Role reversals
  • Shifting needs of family members
  • Upset of balance of everyday responsibilities
  • Financial burdens

Palliative care treats the emotional , social, practical and spiritual issues brought on by a cancer diagnosis.

Who provides palliative care?

Palliative care became a defined specialty in 2006. Although a relatively new specialty, most large hospitals have palliative care teams.   The palliative care team is made up of physicians, nurses, dietician, social workers, and psychologists, occupational therapists and chaplains.

Palliative care may be offered by hospitals, home health agencies, cancer centers and long-term care facilities. There may be a palliative care specialist in your oncologist’s practice. If not they will be able to refer you to a palliative care specialist near you.

How can palliative care help me?

Palliative care does not treat  your cancer; however, it does relieve the physical, emotional and psychosocial symptoms associated with the disease. Because every individual experiences cancer differently, your unique circumstance, personality and support system all play into how palliative care may help you .

Palliative care can provide relief in the following areas:

Coping and emotional stress, by addressing the anxiety, fear and depression that often accompanies a cancer diagnosis.

Physical pain, fatigue and loss of appetite are some of the symptoms experienced by patients that can be relieved with palliative care.

The practical concerns of families and caregivers, such as financial pressures, employment questions and transportation issues are examples of what a member of the palliative care team could assist you with.

Spiritual issues often come to the forefront when facing a life threatening illness and palliative care can help guide you through questions of faith.

Research has proven that palliative care is effective in improving the quality of life of cancer patients. When your symptoms are controlled and your practical needs are being met you feel better and live better.

If you would like more information on how to locate a palliative care specialist to support you during your treatment please call Dana at 703-403-7600 for assistance

Chemotherapy, Immunotherapy, Targeted Therapy. What’s the difference?

Scientists have been searching for the most effective ways to treat cancer for centuries. Two big milestones in the way cancer is treated occurred in the early 1900s with the development of radiation therapy, and the second in the 1940s with the introduction of chemotherapy.

In 2003, the completion of the Human Genome Project marked a dramatic shift in the understanding of cancer and other diseases. Researchers mapped the entire human genetic code and discovered that every human cell is made up of 20,000 to 30,000 genes.   As a result the past decade has been one of exploration into novel approaches to treating cancer and new drug discovery.

Today there are a variety of treatments available. What are the differences?


Our cells go through different phases (cell cycle) as they form new cells. Cancer cells form new cells more rapidly than normal cells.   Chemotherapy drugs affect cells at specific stages of a cell’s cycle, however they do not differentiate between cancerous cells and healthy cells. Many healthy cells also have a rapid cell cycle, such as those in the gastrointestinal tract and hair follicles and thus are more susceptible to the effects of chemotherapy resulting in nausea and hair loss during treatment. There are a multitude of chemotherapy agents that may be used alone or in combination as well as with other cancer treatment.


Immunotherapy cancer treatments use the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells by stimulating the immune system. Immunotherapy includes treatments that work with the immune system in different ways and works better for some types of cancer than for others.   Immunotherapy may be used by itself or with other types of treatment. The main types of immunotherapy being used to treat cancer include:

  • Monoclonal Antibodies
  • Immune Checkpoint inhibitors
  • Cancer vaccines

Targeted Therapy

Cancer researchers have discovered some of the differences within cancer cells that enable them to thrive. Targeted therapy refers to treatment with drugs that have been developed to “target” these differences within the cell. Unlike chemotherapy, targeted therapy drugs alter the inner workings of the cell focusing on the part of the cancer cell that makes it different from the normal, healthy cell.   Because they leave the healthy cells alone the side effects of targeted therapies are different from standard chemotherapy treatments.

Targeted therapy works by one of the following:

  • Arresting the development of new blood vessels that feed the cancer cell
  • Triggering the immune system to attack the cancer cell
  • Changing proteins within the cancer cell
  • Blocking or turning off signals telling the cancer cell to grow or divide
  • Carrying toxins directly to the cancer cell

The specificity of cancer cells precludes a standard treatment for all cancer types and your treatment may or may not include one of the types of treatment listed above. It is important to understand what type of cancer you have been diagnosed with and the testing available to see if you may benefit from one of the newer approaches to treatment.

If you need help preparing for an appointment with an oncologist, look in the sidebar to download our 20 questions to ask at your next appointment.

Resources for families facing a cancer diagnosis

Now is not the time for multi-tasking. Take advantage of the resources in your community to find the support that you need.

A cancer diagnosis comes with a wide variety of physical, emotional and logistical challenges. Even the most self -sufficient individual can quickly become overwhelmed. This is not the time to try to do it all yourself. There is a vast amount of national and local resources available to help you meet your specific challenges.

Below are a few resources to assist you in locating the help you need.

  • Emotional support. It is not a sign of weakness to seek the support of patient support groups, individual counseling, or peer -to -peer support to assist you in managing the loneliness, fear or anxiety that often accompanies cancer. Cancer care
  • Financial assistance. When facing a cancer diagnosis money may be the last thing on your mind, however, a 2011 study by Duke University showed the average cancer patient in the US pays over $8,500 a year in out-of-pocket medical expenses not covered by insurance. Cancer is an expensive illness, even with insurance. There is help available: Cancer financial coalition, Give Forward
  • You may not always be able to drive yourself to your treatments or follow-up appointments. There is help for arranging transportation. ACS Road to Recovery program
  • Children and Cancer. Cancer does not discriminate. It is a disease that can strike at any age. National Cancer Institute
  • Home Care. There are a wide range of health and social services that can be administered in the home. Explore your options. National Cancer Institute
  • Specialty Supportive Care

These are just a few places to help you begin to gather the information necessary to inform the decisions you will face in managing your illness. Research and coordination of care are time-consuming and can often compound the existing stress and anxiety brought on by cancer. If the thought of coordinating care and finding resources while caring for yourself or a loved one with cancer is overwhelming we are here to help.  For an initial 30-minute consultation contact us at 703-403-7600 or email


Schedule a get-acquainted call 

The first step is a free 15-minute get-acquainted call to see how I can help. The next step is to schedule our first 90 minute consultation  , where I will personalize a roadmap for you and your family, and determine next steps.