Making a decision

When making an important decision, it can help to think about how you have made big decisions in the past. It can be difficult to make a decision about which cancer treatment to choose. You will be the one having treatment so you need to be happy with your choice. Ask more questions if need more information about each option. You might find it helpful to talk to your family and friends. They may be able to simplify things for you.

You could also try following these five steps, to help you make a decision:

  1. List the different options.
  2. Get the information about the options.
  3. List the pros and cons of each option.
  4. Narrow down the possible options.
  5. Make your decision.

There is no right or wrong decision. People have different priorities, concerns and circumstances that will mean they make different choices.

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

Making your decision

It can be difficult to make a decision about something that is very important. You may feel overwhelmed by all the information you have been given or may be influenced by relatives and friends.

It may help to think about how you approached big decisions in the past. Are you guided by your first impressions and instincts? Or do you usually need to think things through for a long time?

When you have thought about all the information you have, you may find it helpful to put it aside and try not to think about it for a few days. If you can, do something different to distract you from making the decision. If you need to decide fairly quickly, it may help to get a good night’s sleep and then make the decision the next day. Giving yourself a short break before making the decision may help you look at all the information with a fresh approach.

It’s your decision

It is important to do what is right for you and not what you think other people want you to do. It is easy to be influenced by the opinions of others, especially when they are very close to you. But you are the one who will be having the treatment, and you need to be sure that you have made the right decision for you at the time.

If your relatives or friends think that you are making the wrong decision, explain your reasons to them. They may be happy to accept your decision once they know your reasons, but they may also have important points that you have not considered.

Help with making a decision

There are things that you can do to help you make a decision.

Make a list

To help you make your decision, you could write a list of the benefits and disadvantages of the treatment you have been offered.

Try to think about:

  • the aim of the treatment
  • how successful the treatment is likely to be
  • the possible side effects
  • how often you will need to go to the hospital, and for how long
  • the effects on your family and social life
  • the effects on your work and finances.

These are just examples. It is important to take time to make your decision. This will be hard if doctors want to start treatment soon. However, it is important that you can think about the information you have and ask more questions if you need to.

To help you make your decision, you might find these five steps useful:

Making your decision

Making treatment decisions
Making treatment decisions

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Who can help you decide?

Talking can help you sort out your thoughts and feelings before making a decision. You may have a specialist nurse or research nurse at the hospital you can talk to. You could also talk to your GP or one of our cancer support specialists.

Some people have a close circle of family and friends who they can talk things through with.

Sometimes an online forum or support group may be helpful. You may be able to learn more from other people’s experiences.

Remember that every person, and every cancer, is unique. What may have been the right choice for someone else may not be the best thing for you. Always check with your healthcare team if you have any doubts about information you have been given.

Our cancer support specialists are here to answer any questions you have, offer support or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

We turned to Macmillan and called them up for some help with our decision. They gave us a lot of information and were really helpful.


Dealing with uncertainty

Feeling that we have some control over our lives gives us a sense of security and allows us to enjoy the things we do. It is natural to want to know what is likely to happen to us next, so that we can make plans for the future.

There is often some uncertainty when making treatment decisions. Sometimes there is not a clear right or wrong answer. The doctors may not be able to say for sure if the treatment will work and how it may affect you.

Uncertainty can be one of the hardest things to deal with. It can make you feel angry, irritable and frightened, which can sometimes cause tension with people around you.

It can help to talk to family, friends and healthcare professionals about how you feel. Some people find it useful to talk about things with a counsellor. Your local cancer information centre or cancer support group may have a counsellor who you can talk to. Or your doctors and nurses can help you find one.

How will you know if you’ve made the right choice?

There is no right or wrong decision. People have different priorities, concerns and circumstances that will mean they make different choices.

The most important thing to remember is that the decision you make is the right one for you at the time. No one can say exactly what will happen in the future. It is likely that there will always be some uncertainty.

You may find you change your mind over time. How you feel now may be different from how you felt a few weeks or months ago. It can also differ from how you may feel in the future.

As your situation changes, your choices may change too. Your healthcare team will support you and will respect the choices you make.

If the cancer comes back after having the treatment you chose, you should not blame yourself. It is possible that the cancer would have come back if you had chosen another treatment option. It is important to remember that you made the right decision at the time for all the right reasons, using the information available to you.

Back to Access to treatment

Finding out your treatment options

Knowing basic information about your type of cancer and different treatments options can help you to make an informed treatment decision.