Doctors and other healthcare staff can give you information about individual treatments, but the final decision on which treatment to have, or whether to have treatment, is yours.
It can help to find out as much as possible about the type of cancer you have and the treatments that are planned, so that you can work closely with your doctors to make informed choices. You can discuss the possible benefits and risks of each treatment with the health professionals looking after you. Some of the questions that you may want to ask your doctors are listed below:
- What type of cancer is it?
- Has it spread?
- What treatments are available for this type of cancer?
- How effective is the treatment likely to be?
- Which treatment is the best for me?
- How long will each treatment take and what does it involve?
- What are the possible side effects of treatment?
- How much is the treatment likely to affect my day-to-day life?
When you know more about your situation, you may need time to think through your choices, and discuss them with family and friends, or with your specialist nurse.
You have a right to expect honesty, and as much information as you feel you need, throughout your illness.
It’s important to remember that you can refuse to have a particular treatment if, after considering your options, you decide for any reason that you don’t want to go ahead with it.
Finding out about treatmentsBack to top
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, and many cancer organisations and support groups can also help you find someone who has had a particular treatment. Some websites, such as Healthtalkonline has video clips of patients talking about their experiences of treatment.
You might find our online community helpful, or you could speak to one of our cancer support specialists. The staff at your local library may also be able to help you find information.
You can also find information on the internet. There can be misleading or inaccurate information on the internet, so it’s important to know that you are looking at reliable websites.
Many websites are trying to sell you something such as a particular drug or health treatment. Often these are not helpful and could cause you harm, so if you’re thinking of trying out a treatment advertised on the internet it’s very important to check it first with your doctor or specialist nurse.
Some people prefer to leave treatment decisions completely to their doctors, as they find this easier and less stressful. However, if you choose this option, it is still helpful to understand what your treatment will involve.
It’s possible that you may have at least one other health problem when your cancer is diagnosed, and you may already be taking certain medicines. This may influence the doctors when choosing which treatments to offer you. Your cancer specialist should have all the details of your medical history, but it’s a good idea to mention it to them and to have a list of the medications you are taking.
Some people find that their family feels differently to them about how actively their cancer should be treated. This can be hard to deal with and you may want to take some time to talk through the different treatment options with your family and friends. Remember though, it’s you who will be having the treatment so it’s important to choose the treatment that feels right for you.