Asking questions

You can ask your healthcare team any questions you have before, during and after your treatment.

When you are making decisions about treatments, it is very important that you understand all the information you are given. You can ask questions about anything you do not understand.

The type of questions you have are likely to change depending on what stage of treatment you are in.

Remember that you can continue to ask your healthcare team questions during your treatment. Your cancer specialist or clinical nurse specialist will answer any questions you have. They should also offer you some written information about the treatment that you can take home.

Here are some suggestions about the types of questions you could ask about treatment.

Your treatment options

  • What treatment or treatments do you recommend for me?
  • What is the aim of my treatment?
  • Are there any other treatments that might work just as well?
  • What are the benefits and risks of each treatment option?
  • What might the side effects of each option be?
  • Would there be different treatment options if I were treated privately?

Taking part in a clinical trial

  • Is there a clinical trial I can take part in?
  • What does taking part in a clinical trial mean?
  • What sort of trial am I being offered?
  • Why is the trial taking place?
  • How does taking part in a trial change my treatment options?

Choosing treatment

  • How can I choose between the treatments you have offered me?
  • Can I change my mind after I have started my treatment?
  • Can I get a second opinion?
  • Can you suggest a consultant who could offer a second opinion?

Choosing not to have treatment

  • Can I choose not to have any treatment?
  • If I choose not to have treatment, what is likely to happen?
  • If I choose not to have treatment now, could I have treatment later?
  • If I was able to have treatment later, would the aim of the treatment be the same?

Where to have your treatment

  • Can I choose where I am treated?
  • Can I be treated privately?
  • Will I have all my treatment at this hospital or will I have to travel?
  • How long will I need to stay in hospital for?
  • Can I have my treatment at home, or closer to home?
  • Is there any help or support that I can have at home?

What treatment will involve

  • How soon will the treatment start?
  • How long will the treatment last?
  • How often will I have my treatment?
  • If I have chemotherapy, will I have tablets, injections or drips?
  • If I need to take tablets at home, how should I handle and store these medicines? What will happen if I forget to take a dose?
  • If I need radiotherapy, what will this involve?
  • Can I have a family member or friend with me while I am having the treatment?
  • If I need surgery, what will this involve?
  • How long will I need to be in hospital for?
  • How long is it likely to take for me to recover?

How treatment might affect you

  • What does this treatment do?
  • Do I need to change my lifestyle while having this treatment?
  • Can I drink alcohol?
  • Do I need to change what I eat?
  • Can I exercise regularly?
  • Will the treatment affect my fertility or sex life?
  • Can I continue working while I am having treatment?

How well treatment is working

  • How effective is my treatment likely to be?
  • How and when will I know if the treatment has worked?
  • How will the doctors know if the treatment is working?
  • Will I need to have any more tests?
  • If my treatment is delayed, will this make a difference?

Side effects

  • What are the possible side effects?
  • How long are side effects likely to continue for?
  • Will side effects eventually go away, or might some be permanent?
  • How will I be monitored for side effects during and after treatment?
  • What should I do if I have side effects?
  • What can be done to reduce side effects and how can they be controlled?
  • Are there any complementary therapies that might help?
  • If I am having lots of side effects, can I reduce or completely stop my treatment?
  • What would happen if I decided to stop my treatment at any point?

During treatment

  • Who will be looking after me while I have my treatment?
  • Will any religious or spiritual wishes I have be met?
  • Who should I contact if I have any problems?
  • How long should I wait before contacting someone?
  • Who should I contact in an emergency or out of hours?
  • When will I next see my oncologist or specialist nurse?

After treatment

  • What happens when treatment finishes?
  • How can I expect to feel after the treatment?
  • How long might it take until I feel back to normal?
  • What might the long-term effects of cancer and its treatment be?
  • Who do I contact if I have a problem in-between follow-up appointments?

Worries about cancer coming back

  • How will I be checked to see if the cancer has come back?
  • I am worried about the cancer coming back. Who can I speak to?
  • How can I reduce the risk of the cancer coming back?
  • How can I stay healthy after treatment finishes?

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