Making a Cancer Treatment Decision That Is Right For You
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.
If you want help coming up with a list of questions to ask your health care team, you consider using CSC's Open to Options® program.
As you look at all the treatment options with your doctor 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 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 such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, can have difficult side effects. It's important for you to weigh the benefits and the challenges, and make a decision that is best for you.
Building on the success of the Cancer Support Community’s treatment decision counseling program, Open to Options®, Let’s Talk Treatment Options provides an interactive tutorial to help cancer patients build a personalized question list that outlines important questions, concerns and important goals and priorities related to treatment.
This tool was developed by Empowerment and Action for Cancer Care, an alliance between the Cancer Support Community, Anthem, Inc. and Genentech.
Open to Options®
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. The program is available in English or Spanish for people with any stage of cancer.
The service can help you get the most out of your doctor’s visit and help you talk more openly with your health care team about the things that really matter to you in 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 your doctor explore your situation and develop the best treatment option for you.
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.
- 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 and other cancer organizations publish guidelines and treatment decision-making tools to help doctors and patients understand various treatment. (Always use treatment guidelines and other tools with the help and interpretation of your doctor.)
Find a Program Near You
Open to Options® is available through our Cancer Support Community affiliates. If you are unable to find a program near you, call our Toll-Free Cancer Support Helpline, 1-888-793-9355, to speak to a helpline counselor about the program.
About Open to Options®
To help people with cancer prioritize their questions and concerns, the Cancer Support Community provides free, national access to professional counselors through its Open to Options program. Open to Options counselors are trained to help those with cancer organize their questions and communicate their concerns and goals to their healthcare provider in order to mutually decide on a plan that best suits their individual desires and needs. The personalized list of prioritized questions and concerns is typed up and taken to the upcoming doctor’s appointment or sent to the doctor directly.
Open to Options is available in English and in Spanish for people at any stage of cancer by calling the Cancer Support Helpline at 1-888-793-9355 or visiting select CSC affiliate locations. Open to Options appointments on average last between 45-60 minutes.
Healthcare professionals interested in enrolling patients in Open to Options can call our Toll-Free Cancer Support Helpline (1-888-793-9355), or contact Sara Goldberger, Senior Director, Program at (646) 600-7565.
Open to Options is supported by organizations, including the Amgen Foundation.