Endorsed by the European Oncology Nursing Society

Making difficult treatment decisions

Making difficult treatment decisions image

Once you have been diagnosed with cancer, the next step in your cancer journey is for your medical team to help you decide upon the best course of treatment. There may be different options, and they should involve you in deciding which treatment is the best for you.1

Each treatment will have its advantages and disadvantages in terms of how well it is likely to work and the side-effects that you may experience.2,3 Having enough information about all the options will help you make decisions about your treatment.2,4

To be able to make the best possible decision about your cancer treatment you should:

  • Understand your diagnosis1
  • Know which treatment options are available for your type and stage of cancer4
    • There are official recommendations for treatment options for your cancer type; these are called “Guidelines”.5 Your doctor may be able to help you find guidelines for your specific type of cancer
  • Decide what you want your treatment to achieve
    • Are any of the options better to slow, stop, or eliminate the cancer, manage symptoms better or cause fewer side-effects?4
  • Inform yourself about the possible side-effects of each treatment3
  • Understand how the treatment might affect your everyday routine3

Keep the following in mind:3

  • Ask your medical team for as much information as you need, and keep on asking until you understand all the options
  • You are entitled to ask for a second opinion
  • You may also decide not to have any treatment at all

Above all, remember that you are the most important member of your care team. Your decision is the one that counts.6,7



  1. Macmillan. Making treatment decision. Accessed March 2016.
  2. Macmillan. Coming to your decision. Accessed March 2016.
  3. Mayo Clinic. Cancer treatment. Accessed March 2016.
  4. Mayo Clinic. Cancer treatment decisions: 5 steps to help you decide. Accessed March 2016.
  5. ESMO. ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines. Accessed March 2016.
  6. Martinez, R. Chapter 15: Things I’ve learned in dealing with cancer. In: Chauhan C, ed. Incidental finding essays on renal cell carcinoma. Wichita, KA: Tall Grass Books; 2006. p. 217.
  7. 7. Chauhan, C. Resources. In: Chauhan C, ed. Incidental finding essays on renal cell carcinoma. Wichita, KA: Tall Grass Books; 2006. p. 227.