Tips for asking questions

You probably have lots of questions about treatment. Knowing what is happening and why can make you feel more involved in your care. It can also make it easier to make decisions.

You should be given a key worker. This will usually be your clinical nurse specialist. This person will be your main point of contact at the hospital. They can answer any questions you have, or refer you to other people who can help.

Here are some tips for asking questions:

  1. Plan your questions. It may help to write them down before appointments.
  2. It may help to make notes during appointments.
  3. Consider asking a family member or friend to join you.
  4. Do not feel you have to ask everything at once. You will have other chances to speak to your healthcare team.
  5. You may have questions that feel difficult to talk about. Remember that healthcare professionals are there to help.

The important thing is that you understand what your healthcare professional is telling you.

Asking questions

You probably have lots of questions about treatment. Knowing what is happening and why can make you feel more involved in your care. It can also make it easier to make decisions. 

You should be given a key worker. This will usually be your clinical nurse specialist. This person will be your main point of contact at the hospital. A team of health professionals, called a multidisciplinary team (MDT), is responsible for your treatment and care. Members of your MDT and your key worker can answer any questions you have. They can also refer you to other people who can help.

Difficult questions

Some questions may be difficult to ask, particularly when they are about very personal issues. For example, you might want to talk about the impact cancer and its treatment are having on your sex life. Or you may want to ask about symptoms you are experiencing that feel embarrassing.

You may feel embarrassed or afraid to ask these questions. But healthcare professionals are used to all kinds of questions and are happy to help.

Ultimately, what everybody wants is for you to be happy and comfortable with your treatment plan.

David, GP


5 top tips for asking questions

1. Plan your questions

Appointments and other chances to speak with your healthcare team can be short. It is good to be prepared, and we have information to help you do that. It may help to write your questions before your appointment. Keep a notebook handy and write things as you think of them, or you can order a free Macmillan Organiser.

2. Keep notes

You can make notes during appointments in a notebook or the Macmillan Organiser. This may help you to remember what is said. You can also get copies of any documents your doctor or healthcare team send to your GP. These might include information about your test results or treatment.

Some healthcare professionals may be happy for you to record consultations using a dictaphone or smartphone. You should ask their permission first.

3. Consider asking a family member or friend to join you

You may find it helpful to bring someone with you to appointments, such as a family member or friend. They may also be able to make notes while you and the healthcare professional talk, and help you to remember what is said.

4. Do not feel you have to ask everything at once

You do not have to ask all your questions at once. There will be other chances to speak to your healthcare team. It is fine if you think of new questions or need to ask a question again. You can make another appointment, or speak to your healthcare team over the phone. Some healthcare professionals can also be contacted by email.

Your key worker should give you their contact details so that you can talk over the phone or arrange a face-to-face meeting. You can use this to go over anything you do not understand or need repeating.

5. Remember that professionals are there

to help You may have questions that feel difficult to talk about. Remember that the healthcare professionals you speak to will be used to talking to people with all sorts of issues. They are there to help. It is very likely they will have helped other people in similar situations.

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


Who you can ask

Your healthcare team

Depending on the type of cancer you have and how it is treated, you may be seen by some, or all, of these healthcare professionals:

  • Surgeon – a doctor who specialises in a specific cancer type and does operations.
  • Oncologist – a doctor who specialises in cancer care and treatment.
  • Haematologist – a doctor who specialises in diagnosing and treating blood disorders, including some cancers.
  • Pathologist – a doctor who studies cells and body tissues.
  • Clinical nurse specialist – an expert nurse who specialises in a particular area of health, such as cancer or a specific cancer type.
  • Therapy radiographer – an expert in planning and giving radiotherapy.
  • Radiologist – a specialist in x-rays and scans.
  • Palliative care doctors and nurses – specialists in relieving the symptoms of cancer when a cancer can no longer be cured.
  • Oncology pharmacist – a pharmacist with special training in medications used to treat cancer.

You may also be seen by other health or social care professionals, such as a physiotherapist, occupational therapist, dietitian, counsellor, psychologist or social worker.

Your GP (family doctor) and practice nurse may also be involved in your treatment and care.

Your care will be managed by a multidisciplinary team (MDT). This is a group of different professionals who work together to manage your treatment and care.

You should be given a key worker. This will usually be your clinical nurse specialist. This person will be your main point of contact at the hospital. They can answer any questions you have, or refer you to other people who can help. They can also offer support to you and your family. At your first appointment, your key worker should give you their contact details so that you can talk over the phone or arrange a face-to-face meeting.

If you have a question about a particular cancer medicine, you may be able to ask an oncology pharmacist in the pharmacy department at your hospital or treatment centre.

Financial specialists

It is normal to worry about money when you or someone in your family has cancer. For example, you may have to pay to travel to hospital. Or you may have higher energy bills if you stay at home more often.

You can call 0808 808 00 00 to speak to our experienced financial advisers. They can help with personal finance issues or claiming benefits. You could also speak to [Citizens Advice] for telephone or face-to-face advice.

Social services

You might have questions about getting support at home. For example, you may need help with tasks like shopping or cleaning. Or you may have care needs.

Your GP or a member of your healthcare team may refer you to social services if they think you need help with some of these issues.

If you have been referred to social services, you can ask them about any practical issues you have. They can also help with financial problems.

Other people affected by cancer

You should ask your healthcare team questions about your condition and treatment. However, you may have questions you want to ask someone who is going through a similar experience to you. You could speak with other people affected by cancer:

I act as a key worker, and there are no questions that you cannot ask. Nothing is too big, too small or too silly – that is what we’re here for.

Michael, clinical nurse specialist

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