Making decisions about treatment
Sometimes two different treatments may be equally effective in treating the cancer, but may have different side effects.
Doctors and other healthcare professionals can give you information about the various treatments and how each may affect your ability to work and your day-to-day life.
The final decision on which treatment to have - or whether to have treatment at all - is yours.
It can help to find out as much as possible about the type of cancer you have and the treatments that are recommended for you. You can then discuss your situation with your doctors and decide which treatment best suits your situation.
You can talk about the benefits and possible risks of each treatment with the healthcare professionals looking after you.
It’s important to remember that it can be difficult to predict how any treatment will affect you. This is because the same treatment can affect people differently.For example, two people may be given the same dose of the same chemotherapy drug. One may have few side effects and be able to carry on working, while the other person may have severe side effects and be unable to work for a while.
Questions to ask
Questions you may want to ask your doctor include:
What treatments are available for my type of cancer?
How effective are the treatments likely to be?
What are the benefits and disadvantages of the treatments?
How long will each treatment take and what do they involve? Will I be admitted to hospital and, if so, for how long?
What are the possible side effects of the treatments?
What can be done to ease the side effects of the treatments?
How much are the treatments likely to affect my day-to-day life?
How will the treatments affect my physical ability to do my job? For example, can I drive? Climb ladders? Travel by plane?
Will I still be able to work while I am having the treatments?
Are there any treatment options that will make it easier for me to work?
What will happen if I decide not to have 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, friends and business partner, if you have one. If you find it difficult to decide between treatment options, it may help to talk to people who have already had those treatments. You may also find it useful to join a local support group.
You can search for groups in your area on this site, or call our cancer support specialists. You can join discussion groups for different cancer treatments on our online community
Many people use the internet to find information about cancer and its treatments. However, there’s a lot of misleading and inaccurate information on the internet. So it’s important to use high-quality and reputable sites. We have a list of sites with accurate and up-to-date information about cancer and work issues.
You may want to get another medical opinion. Either your specialist or your GP should be willing to refer you to another specialist for a second opinion, if you feel it will be helpful.
Getting a second opinion may delay the start of your treatment, so you and your doctor need to be confident that it will give you useful information.
If you do see another doctor, it may be a good idea to take someone with you so that you can make sure your concerns are covered during the discussion.
Some people prefer to leave treatment decisions completely to their doctors, as they find this easier and less stressful. If you decide to do this, it’s still important to understand what your treatment will involve and how it will affect your ability to work.
Occupational health advice
Some people working for an employer have access to help from an occupational health adviser. This is a health professional, such as a nurse or doctor, who specialises in workplace health issues. Occupational health advisers use their medical knowledge and awareness of various jobs to help people make decisions.
They can advise you on health and safety laws, and find ways for you to work around the cancer and its treatment. For most people with cancer, occupational health advice is not part of their treatment plan. However, research suggests that more working people with cancer could benefit from this advice.
As a self-employed person, you would usually need to pay for this advice privately. However, a scheme called NHS Health for Work offers free occupational health advice to small businesses including self-employed people. Visit the Health for Work website or call 0800 077 88 44 for more information. There are also schemes in Scotland (Healthy Working Lives) and Wales (Workboost Wales) offering free occupational health advice to small businesses.
You can also find a private service through the Commercial Occupational Health Providers Association.
Our section on making treatment decisions has more information that may help you.