Talking to your healthcare team

  • Decisions about treatment

    Your doctors may tell you there are different options for your treatment. Having the right information will help you make the right decision for you.

  • Surgery

    Surgery involves removing all or part of the cancer with an operation. It is an important treatment for many cancers.

  • Radiotherapy

    Radiotherapy is the use of high-energy rays, usually x-rays and similar rays (such as electrons) to treat cancer.

  • Chemotherapy

    Chemotherapy uses drugs to treat many different types of cancer. It is most commonly given as an injection into a vein or as tablets or capsules.

  • Targeted (biological) therapies

    Targeted (biological) therapies interfere with the way cells grow and divide.

  • Supportive and other treatments

    Other treatments can be used as part of the main cancer treatment and to treat side-effects.

  • Clinical trials

    Many people are offered a trial as part of treatment. Find out more to help you decide if a trial is right for you.

  • Life after cancer treatment

    You might be thinking about how to get back to normal following treatment. Find advice, information and support about coping with and after cancer.

Talking to your healthcare team can help. Many people feel better and more in control when they know what is happening to them and why.

People often feel that hospital staff are too busy to answer their questions, but it’s important for you to understand what’s happening and how the cancer and its treatment is likely to affect you. The staff should be willing to make time for your questions.

Your family and friends may also have questions to ask. Your healthcare team should be happy to answer their questions, if they have your permission to. They can also give your family and friends advice on how they can care for you. We have more information for people supporting someone with cancer.

If you don't speak English

If you don’t understand or speak English very well, the hospital can arrange an interpreter for you when you meet with your doctor or other members of the healthcare team. 

Interpreters translate everything your doctor says to you and everything you want to say back. You may have to ask in advance for your hospital to arrange an interpreter.

There are also people called advocates who can talk on your behalf and make sure your healthcare team knows about any wishes you have.

The Macmillan Support Line has an interpretation service in over 200 languages. Call free on 0808 808 00 00.

Tips for talking to your doctor

Find out how to get the most out of your appointments with a GP or doctor.

About our cancer information videos

Tips for talking to your doctor

Find out how to get the most out of your appointments with a GP or doctor.

About our cancer information videos

If you have hearing or speech difficulties

You may want to bring someone with you to speak on your behalf or sign any conversation you have with your doctor. You can also ask your doctors or nurses to write things down for you. Action on Hearing Loss can give you further information and support.

If you're partially sighted

If you’re partially sighted you can ask for written information to be provided in large print. Some organisations, including Macmillan, can provide information in Braille or as an audio CD. You can also ask your doctor if it’s okay to record their conversations with you.

You can get further information and support from RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People).

Back to Head & neck cancers


causes and risk factors of head and neck cancers


the practical, work and financial side


with and after treatment for head and neck cancers


and publications to order, download and print