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

After you have seen your GP, you may have some tests and scans at the hospital to help the doctors make a diagnosis.

Usually, if you have been diagnosed with cancer, a team of health professionals will work together to plan the treatment they feel is best for your situation. This team is called a multidisciplinary team (MDT). 

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.
  • Medical oncologist – a doctor who specialises in treating cancer with chemotherapy.
  • Clinical oncologist – a doctor who specialises in treating cancer with radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
  • 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.
  • Radiologist – a specialist in x-rays and scans.

You may also be seen by other health or social care professionals, such as a physiotherapist, dietitian, occupational therapist (OT), radiographer, doctor or nurse who specialises in symptom control, or a counsellor or psychologist.

Even after you have been diagnosed, you may need more tests to find out the type and size of the cancer and whether it has begun to spread. The MDT will meet together to discuss the results of these tests and plan your treatment. They will consider a number of things, including:

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


Giving your consent

You will have an appointment with your specialist to agree a plan for your treatment. This will usually be at an outpatient appointment.

You will need to sign a form to say that you agree to have the treatment. This is called giving your consent. Consent forms vary in different hospitals, but your healthcare team will be able to explain the consent form to you. Your doctors will not be able to give you any treatment until you have given your consent.

If you feel unsure about treatment, you can ask for more time to decide. Remember that it is usually important to start treatment soon, as it is more likely to be more effective then.

You may decide that you do not want to have treatment. The staff can explain what may happen if you do not have it. It is important to tell a doctor or someone senior in your healthcare team. They will need to record your decision in your medical notes.

You do not have to explain why you do not want treatment. But doing so may help your healthcare team understand your concerns and be able to give you the best care.

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

If you are unhappy with the treatment or care you have received, you may want to make a complaint.

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.

Clinical negligence

If care given by a healthcare professional falls below an acceptable standard and causes injury or death, you can claim compensation for the harm done.