Sometimes it's hard to decide on the right treatment. You may feel that everything's happening so fast you don't have time to think things through. If you're feeling unsure about your options, check with your doctor how soon your treatment should start, and take as much time as you can before making a decision.
Understanding details about the disease, the available treatments and their possible side effects will help you make a well-informed decision. This decision will also take into account your personal values and the things that are important to you and your family.
It's common to feel overwhelmed by information so it may help if you read and talk about the cancer gradually.
You have the right to accept or refuse any treatment offered by your doctors and other health care professionals. Some people with advanced cancer choose treatment even if it only offers a small benefit for a short period of time. Others want to make sure the benefits outweigh the side effects so that they have the best possible quality of life. Some people choose options that focus on reducing symptoms and make them feel as well as possible.
When your doctor first tells you that you have cancer you may not remember all the details about what you're told. You may want to see the doctor again before deciding on treatment. Ask for the time and support to make your decision.
If you have questions, it may help to write them down before you see the doctor. You can also check our list of suggested questions. Taking notes or recording the discussion can help too. Many people like to have a family member or friend go with them to take part in the discussion, take notes or simply listen.
If your doctor uses medical terms you don't understand, ask for an explanation in everyday language. You can also check a word's meaning in our cancer glossary.
Getting a second opinion from another specialist may be a valuable part of your decision-making process. It can confirm or clarify your doctor's recommendations and reassure you that you've explored all your options.
Some people feel uncomfortable asking their doctor for a second opinion, but specialists are used to people doing this. If you have several questions for your doctor, ask if it's possible to book a longer appointment.
Your doctor can refer you to another specialist and send your initial results to that person. You can get a second opinion even if you've started treatment or still want to be treated by your first doctor. Alternatively, you may decide you'd prefer to be treated by the doctor who provided the second opinion.
Your doctor may suggest you consider taking part in a clinical trial. Doctors run clinical trials to test new or modified treatments and ways of diagnosing disease to see if they're better than current methods. Over the years, trials have improved treatments and led to better outcomes for people diagnosed with cancer.
If you join what's called a randomised trial for a new treatment, you'll be chosen at random to receive either the best existing treatment or the promising new treatment.
To help you decide whether or not to participate, you can talk to your specialist or the clinical trials nurse. If you're still unsure, you can also ask for a second opinion from an independent specialist.
If you do decide to take part, you have the right to withdraw from the trial at any time; doing so won't jeopardise your ongoing treatment for cancer.
For more information about clinical trials and other research, including questions to ask your doctor and how to find a suitable study, call Cancer Council Helpline 13 11 20. You can also visit our Victorian Cancer Trials Link.