Making Treatment Decisions

When you have been diagnosed with cancer, you may hear about different treatment options and therapies from the people around you – your doctors, family, friends and colleagues. It is very common to feel overwhelmed and unsure which clinical path to take. This confusion can also lead to stress, anxiety and second-guessing every decision you make about your treatment.

At this stressful time, it is very important to equip yourself with the right information. Have an open discussion with your doctor about the possible treatment options he or she can offer you. Take time to discuss each option with your family and friends, before making your decision.

Questions to ask your doctor

Treatment for cancer is generally prescribed by a multi-disciplinary team of doctors and specialists, led by one doctor (who is called your primary physician). Your time with your primary physician is generally limited, so it can help to prepare a list of questions prior to starting treatment, in order to ensure that your time together is as productive as possible. Be sure to prioritize your questions, in case time runs out.

Some basic questions you may want to ask include

What type of cancer do I have?

What is the stage of my cancer?

Do I need to undergo any more
diagnostic tests?

What are the treatment options available  for me?

What are the benefits and risks of each
of the treatment options you recommend?

What are the possible side effects
I can expect from each treatment
option? How can I cope with these
side effects?

How will each of the treatment options
affect my daily life, and the life of
my family?

What is the typical treatment schedule? Do I need to visit the hospital every time for the treatment, or are there treatments available in other centres or at home?

Can I continue to work or travel while undergoing treatment?

Will these treatment options affect my
ability to have children?

How much will each treatment option
cost? Will my insurance cover it?

If I am not able to afford some
treatments, what are the options
available to me? Does the hospital
offer financial assistance? Are there
any other organizations that offer
support?

How quickly do I need to make my decision about treatment?

Should I seek a second opinion?

Are there any clinical trials or newer
treatments available in India that I
should consider? What about in other
parts of the world?

Making your decision

It is normal to feel overwhelmed by all the information you have been given. It is very important to take time to make your decision, think about the information you have and ask your doctor more questions if you need to.

It can also help to discuss your treatment options with your family or friends. Some people find it useful to write a list of the benefits and disadvantages of each treatment option. If you want to try this, you can start by answering certain questions for each treatment option you have been offered, such as

What is the aim of the treatment?

How successful is the treatment likely to be?

What are the possible side effects of the treatment?

How often do I need to go to the hospital for the treatment? For how long?

What are some effects of the treatment on my family, friends and daily life?

What are some effects of the treatment on my work or financial situation?

If you find it difficult to answer these questions, you may need to have another meeting with your doctor and get more information. Your doctor can also guide you through each treatment option and help you make your decision.

Understanding treatment options

This section provides more information about the treatment options for each type of cancer

It is normal to feel fear, unease, uncertainty, or anxiety as you start your cancer treatment journey. The most common fear is that of side effects and how it will affect your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Have a detailed conversation with your physician about preventing or controlling the side effects. Your mind will be at ease once you understand the process and what you may have to deal with. Refer to this section to learn more about the most common fears about side effects and how to cope with them. Read more

Cancer never affects just the patient. It affects the lives of your family and friends as well. Some family and friends may be primary caregivers. Others may play a more supporting role on your cancer care journey. This section has specific information that can help your loved ones cope at this difficult time. Read more

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