Making a decision about cancer treatment can be an overwhelming experience for many people. Important decisions need to be made about treatment for new or recurrent cancer as well as ending treatment. Sometimes it is hard to know what questions to ask the doctor. One proven strategy for getting the most out of your visit is to be as prepared as possible. Having a written list of questions can help you feel more organized and comfortable in asking the questions you need to have answered as you work together with your doctor to make a decision about which treatment is right for you.
As you look at all the treatment options with your oncologist and your family, you will need to determine what you can realistically expect from treatment. Talk with your doctor to better understand your type and stage of cancer as well as what your doctor feels is the best goal of treatment for you. A goal of treatment may be cure, slowing or controlling tumor growth, or extending your life while maintaining quality of life. Some cancer treatments are designed to control pain and other symptoms when a cure is not possible. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation can have difficult side effects, so it's important for you to weigh the benefits and the challenges, and make a decision that is best for you. Cancer treatments today have come along way from years ago. There are many medications that reduce side effects and make it possible for you to continue to work or keep up with your usual activities.
The Cancer Support Community has a decision support counseling program called Open to Options® that can help you prepare for an appointment in which you will be making a treatment decision. Using this service can help you get the most out of your visit with the oncologist and help you talk more openly with your health care team about the things that really matter to you the most in relation to your cancer treatment. In a brief one hour session, an Open to Options® Specialist can help you develop a personal list of questions and concerns that will help you and doctor explore your situation and develop the best treatment option.
Tips for Treatment Decision-Making
- Learn about your cancer and treatment options. Try and understand as much as you can about your diagnosis and the possible treatments. There are excellent booklets and online information available through the Cancer Support Community, the National Cancer Institute and many other organizations to help you get more informed.
- Bring someone else along. Bring a family member or friend along to listen along with you, take notes and keep track of the options.
- Talk about your decision with someone you trust. It can be helpful to talk through your ideas and concerns with family, friends, clergy or health professional. Some people find that support groups are a useful place to gather information and suggestions from others.
- Consult guidelines or other decision-making tools. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and other cancer organizations publish guidelines and treatment decision-making tools to help doctors and patients understand various treatment. In addition, some cancer centers offer sophisticated statistical tools you can use with your doctor to help determine the best treatment option based on your personal medical information. Always use treatment guidelines and other tools with the help and interpretation of your doctor.
In addition to the Toll-Free Cancer Support Helpline, 1-888-793-9355, Open to Options is also available through these Cancer Support Community affiliates. Find a CSC affiliate near you and call today for an appointment!