Cancer Council Australia
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Questions to ask your doctor



When cancer is diagnosed you enter into a partnership with your doctor and other health care professionals. To help you get the best care you have the right to:

  • ask questions
  • be specifically informed about the details of your care
  • make an informed choice of treatment from the options available to you

It is important to ask questions, especially if you are unsure or unclear and feel you need more information.

Encourage your family to do the same. It is up to you how involved you want to be in making decisions about your treatment. This may change over time, so keep your doctor informed about your preferences.


Talking to your doctor

To get the most out of your visit to your doctor:

  • request a longer appointment if you have a number of issues to discuss
  • prepare your questions beforehand
  • take a friend or relative for support, or to write down answers to your questions if possible
  • ask your doctor to explain again, if you don’t understand the answers
  • ask your doctor to give you a written summary of yourtreatment plan
  • ask for an interpreter if you have difficulty communicating in English (contact the Translating and Interpreting Service on 13 14 50)

General questions

  • What is the name of my cancer or condition?
  • Is it slow or fast growing?
  • Which part or parts of my body are affected?
  • Is it possible to cure or control my cancer?

Questions about tests

  •  What will this test involve?
  • What information will you get?
  • What are the benefits and risks to me in having this test?
  • Will the results of this test make any difference to the decision on what type of treatment I have?

Questions about treatment

  • What is the aim of each treatment? Is it to cure, control, prevent spread, prevent recurrence or relieve symptoms?
  • What difference will this treatment make to my quality of life eg. can I work, have sex?
  • What are the possible side-effects of treatment? Can they be prevented or controlled? Are they temporary or permanent?
  • What if this treatment does not work?
  • Are there any complementary therapies that I can have?
  • I would like a couple of weeks to make a decision. Will that make any difference?
  • Who are the members of my treatment team?
  • Are there any clinical trials suitable for me?

If your cancer is advanced

  • What treatments are available to relieve my symptoms?
  • Who will be responsible for my medical care?
  • What help can my family and/or friends get if they care for me at home?
  • How can I access palliative care?

Questions about clinical trials (research studies)

During the course of your treatment you may be asked if you would like to take part in a clinical trial. Questions to ask include:

  • What would I have to do as part of the clinical trial?
  • What are the possible side-effects?
  • What are the benefits and risks for me?
  • Do I have the right to refuse?
  • Can I withdraw from the clinical trial at anytime?
  • Are these studies important for me or others?

Where can I get reliable information?

Cancer Council 13 11 20
Information and support for you and your family for the cost of a local call anywhere in Australia.

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This page was last updated on: Wednesday, October 15, 2014