Asking questions and making decisions

Regardless of your age, you have the right to know about all of the treatment options available to you. This will help you make the best decisions with your family and your cancer team.

Some older people told us there were things that they were not told by their cancer team or that they were not given enough time to make a decision.

Listen to how older people with cancer made decisions about their treatment in this video.

 It is important that your cancer team knows about any queries or concerns that you have. It is also the responsibility of health professionals to make sure that you have understood the information you have been given. If you do not understand something that has been said, it is not your fault. Your cancer team will be happy to explain things again if you tell them you haven’t understood.

Ask as many questions as you would like answered before you make any decisions. This will help you make decisions with your cancer team about the most appropriate treatment for you.

Questions to ask 

Some questions you might want to ask your cancer team include:

  • What type of cancer do I have? What stage is my cancer and what does that mean? Has my cancer spread? Is the cancer curable
  • What treatment options are available? What will the treatment involve? Will I need to be an in-patient? What are the risks and benefits of each? 
  • How often will I need to have treatment? How long will the course of treatment last? 
  • What are the possible side effects of treatment? What should I expect during treatment and shortly after? What should I expect in the long term? 
  • Is there a clinical trial that may be suitable for me?
  • What support services are available for me and my family? 
  • Do you have a palliative care team and how do I meet them if I want to? 
  • What will happen if I choose not to have treatment
  • Will my treatment cost me anything? Will I have any out of pocket costs? 
  • How will my GP know what is happening to me? 

Decisions about your treatment will be made by you and your cancer team to suit your individual needs. It is important that decisions you make align with your values and your preferences. 

Most of the time, you can take as much time as you need to make a decision or discuss it with family and carers. If you are very unwell when your cancer is diagnosed, the team may start your treatment very quickly. When you feel better, it is important that you have the opportunity to ask questions about ongoing plans for care.