How treatment is planned

After you have been diagnosed with skin cancer, a team of healthcare professionals will meet to discuss your treatment options. This is called a multidisciplinary team (MDT) and will include specialists in treating skin cancer. The MDT will look at your general health and the type and size of the cancer before recommending a treatment.

You will need to give permission (consent) before doctors can start your treatment. You can also choose not to have treatment. Try not to feel rushed into making a decision. If you decide not to have treatment, you will be given supportive (palliative) care with medicines to control any symptoms.

Try taking a friend or relative to your appointments as they can help you remember the discussion. You may also find it useful to make a list of questions before your appointment to make sure you get the information you need.

How treatment is planned (MDT)

In most hospitals a team of specialists will talk to you about the treatment they feel is best for your situation. This multidisciplinary team (MDT) will include:

  • a dermatologist (skin disease specialist)
  • a general surgeon
  • a plastic surgeon
  • a medical oncologist (chemotherapy specialist)
  • a clinical oncologist (radiotherapy and chemotherapy specialist)
  • a skin cancer nurse specialist
  • radiologists who analyse x-rays and scans
  • pathologists who advise on the type and extent of the cancer.

The MDT will take a number of factors into account when advising you on the best course of action, including your general health, any medication you are taking, the type and size of the cancer, where it is on your body and what the cells look like under a microscope. You may be asked if you’d like to take part in a clinical trial.

Discussing your treatment

If you have any questions about your treatment, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor or nurse. It often helps to make a list of questions and to take a relative or close friend with you. They can remind you of questions you want to ask and help you remember what was said.

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 on 0808 808 00 00.

Giving consent

Before you have any treatment, your doctor will explain its aims. They will 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 don’t understand what you’ve been told, let the staff know straight away, so they can explain again. Some cancer treatments are complex, so it’s not unusual to need repeated explanations.

It’s 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’s 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 don’t have it. It’s essential to tell a doctor or the nurse in charge, so they can record your decision in your medical notes. You don’t 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.

Back to Making treatment decisions

Getting a second opinion

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

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.