When your doctor first tells you that you have cancer, it is very stressful and you may not remember much. You may want to see the doctor a few times before deciding on treatment.
The following tips may help you:
- Ask your doctor for a simple explanation of words you don’t understand.
- Before an appointment, write down your questions.
- Take notes or record the discussion. Tell your doctor you plan to do this.
- Take a family member or friend with you to discuss the issues, take notes, or simply listen.
You can discuss the benefits and possible risks of each treatment with the health professionals looking after you. It is important to remember that it can be very difficult to predict how treatment will affect a person. This is because the same treatment can affect people differently.
Questions you may want to ask your doctor
Here is a list of questions you may want to ask your doctor:
- What treatments are available for my type of cancer?
- How effective is the treatment likely to be?
- How will my treatment affect my physical ability to do my job?
- Can I drive?
- Can I climb ladders?
- Can I work shifts?
- Can I travel by plane?
- Are there any treatment options that will make it easier for me to work?
- What are the benefits and disadvantages of the treatment?
- How long will each treatment take and what does it involve?
- Will I have to be admitted to hospital?
- What are the possible side effects of treatment?
- How can I best manage the side effects of the treatment?
- How much is the treatment likely to affect my day-to-day life?
- Will I be able to work whilst I am having treatment?
- Should/will I have have to change my diet?
- What will happen if I don’t want any treatment?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you may need time to think through your choices, and discuss them with your family or friends.
If you find it difficult to decide between the treatment options, it may help to talk to people who have already had those treatments. Your doctor may be able to put you in touch with other patients. You have the right to accept or refuse any treatment.
Many cancer organisations and support groups can also help you to find someone who has had a particular treatment e.g. the Cancer Council where there are chat rooms for patients, family and carers of people affected by cancer. Also check the resources list at the bottom of this page for other recommended sites.
It is often possible to find information about cancer and its treatment on the internet; however there is also a lot of misleading or inaccurate information. If you look for information on the internet it is important to use only high-quality and reputable sites.
Some people prefer to leave treatment decisions completely to their doctors, as they find this easier and less stressful. However, even if you decide to do this, it is helpful to take the time to understand what your treatment will involve and how it will affect you.
Taking part in a clinical trial
Your doctor may suggest you participate in a clinical trial. Such trials are designed to test new or modified treatments to see if they are better than the currently available options.
If you decide to take part in a clinical trial:
- You will be given one of the following: the best existing treatment, or a promising new treatment.
- The treatment will be chosen for you at random.
- You can opt to withdraw from the trial at any time.
If you are unsure about joining a trial, please feel free to consult an independent specialist for a second opinion.
Find out more about clinical trials at Lifehouse.
More information on clinical trials
- Cancer Institute NSW – Clinical trials database
- Cancer Council – Clinical trials information