How treatment is planned

A group of health professionals will work together to plan your treatment. This is called a multidisciplinary team (MDT). The members of the team will depend on the type of cancer you have. They may include a surgeon, a cancer doctor (oncologist), a haematologist, and a clinical nurse specialist. There may also be other health professionals with expertise in your type of cancer.

The MDT will meet to discuss the results of any tests and to plan your treatment. They will look at a number of things, including:

  • the type and size of the cancer, and whether it has spread
  • your general health
  • national treatment guidelines for your particular cancer.

They may offer you a choice of treatment options. Your specialist will discuss these with you. If you don't understand what you have been told, ask the staff to explain it again.

You will need to sign a form saying that you agree (consent) for the hospital staff to give you the treatment. They cannot give you treatment without your consent.

At the hospital

You may have a number of tests at hospital to help the doctors make a diagnosis. In most hospitals, once you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, a team of specialists will work together to plan the treatment they feel is best for your situation. This team of specialists is known as a multidisciplinary team (MDT). Depending on what type of cancer you have, it usually includes a:

  • surgeon
  • medical oncologist (a doctor who specialises in treating cancer with chemotherapy)
  • clinical oncologist (a doctor who specialises in treating cancer with radiotherapy and chemotherapy)
  • radiologist (a doctor who specialises in reading scans and x-rays)
  • pathologist (a doctor who specialises in looking at cells under a microscope and diagnosing the cell type)
  • paediatric oncologist (a doctor who specialises in treating children with cancer) if appropriate
  • physiotherapist
  • nurse specialist (a nurse who gives you information and support during treatment).

Before your cancer treatment can be planned, one of the specialists will see you and arrange for you to have various tests. This is to find out the type and size of the cancer and whether it has begun to spread. The MDT will then meet together to discuss the results and plan your treatment, taking into account a number of factors:

  • the type and size of the cancer and whether it has spread
  • your general health
  • national treatment guidelines for your particular cancer - you can find out more about these from your specialist.

Once your MDT has decided the most suitable treatment options available to you, your specialist will discuss the recommended treatment with you. They should always take your own wishes into consideration as well. Usually this discussion will happen during an outpatient appointment.

If you have a choice of treatments, they will give you time to make a decision about which treatment you wish to have. It’s important that, before your treatment, you feel able to ask any questions and understand the answers given.

How does an MDT work?

How the team is organised will depend on where you live - they may be slightly different across the UK. Some MDTs discuss patients from different hospitals. Specialists may be on teams for a number of different types of cancer.

How often an MDT meets may also vary. This could mean that you have to wait a bit longer to get all the results of your scans and a treatment plan from your doctor. This can be frustrating and worrying - but the pooling of different types of expertise should mean the best possible decisions are made about your treatment and care.

If waiting for results is making you anxious, you may find it helpful to talk about how you’re feeling with a partner, your family or close friends. You can also talk things over with one of our cancer support specialists by calling the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00.

Benefits of an MDT

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend that people with cancer should be managed by a multidisciplinary team. People cared for by an MDT are more likely to:

  • receive accurate diagnosis and staging
  • be offered a choice of treatments decided by a group of experts, rather than by one doctor
  • receive better coordination and continuity of care through all stages of the cancer
  • be treated in line with locally agreed policies and national guidelines
  • be offered appropriate and consistent information (because the person giving the information should be aware of the team’s strategy for your care)
  • have their psychological and social needs considered – communication between different team members is better where they have a formal working relationship.

Giving your consent

Before you have any treatment, your doctor will explain its aims. They will usually ask you to sign a form saying that you give permission (consent) for the hospital staff to give you the treatment.

No medical treatment can be given without your consent.

Before you are asked to sign the form you should be given full information about:

  • the type and extent of the treatment
  • its advantages and disadvantages
  • any significant risks or side effects
  • any other treatments that may be available.

If you do not understand what you have been told, let the staff know straight away, so they can explain again. Some cancer treatments are complex, so it is not unusual to need repeated explanations.

It is a good idea to have a relative or friend with you when the treatment is explained, to help you remember the discussion.

You may also find it useful to write a list of questions before your appointment.

People sometimes feel that hospital staff are too busy to answer their questions, but it is important for you to know how the treatment is likely to affect you. The staff should be willing to make time for your questions.

You can always ask for more time if you feel that you can't make a decision when your treatment is first explained to you.

You are also free to choose not to have the treatment. The staff can explain what may happen if you do not have it. It is essential to tell a doctor or the nurse in charge, so they can record your decision in your medical notes. You do not have to give a reason for not wanting treatment, but it can help to let the staff know your concerns so they can give you the best advice.


If you’re a parent and your child is under 16 and needs treatment for bone cancer, the doctor will ask you or your child to sign the consent form. The law about children consenting to treatment is very complicated, so do discuss any concerns you have with the doctor.

Back to Making treatment decisions

Making a complaint

Talking to your healthcare team can make it easier to cope. If you find talking difficult, there are things you can do.

Getting a second opinion

Your treatment will be planned using national guidelines, but you may still want another medical opinion.

Making a decision

It is important to remember that the decision you make is the right one for you at the time.

Aims and side effects of treatment

Treatments can have different aims depending on your situation. Your healthcare team will explain the possible side effects of treatment.