Making treatment decisions

Sometimes it’s difficult to decide on whether to have treatment for advanced cancer. Some people choose treatment even if it offers only a small benefit for a short period of time. Others want to make sure the expected benefits outweigh the side effects so that they have the best quality of life.

Some people decide not to have active treatment for the cancer, but to treat symptoms to reduce pain and discomfort. You may want to consider what quality of life means to you.

Perhaps you would choose chemotherapy if it meant you could have two good weeks each month. Or you might value being able to spend as much time as possible with family and friends, without the disruption of treatment.

Understanding the disease, available treatments and possible side effects can help you weigh up the pros and cons of different treatments and make a well-informed decision that’s based on your personal values. You can also discuss the options with your family and friends or with your doctor, or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

Learn more about:


Listen to our podcast on Making Treatment Decisions


Know your options 

Understanding the disease, the available treatments and possible side effects can help you weigh up the options and make a well-informed decision.


Record the details

When your doctor first tells you that you have advanced cancer, you may not remember everything you are told. Taking notes can help you or your might like to ask. It is a good idea to have a family member or friend go with you to appointments to join in the discussion, write notes or simply listen.


Ask questions

If you are confused or want to check anything, it is important to ask your specialist questions. Try to prepare a list before appointments. If you have a lot of questions, you could talk to a cancer care coordinator or nurse.


Consider a second opinion

You may want to get a second opinion from another specialist to confirm or clarify your doctor’s recommendations and reassure you that you have explored all of your options. Specialists are used to people doing this. Your GP or specialist can refer you to another specialist and send your initial results to that person. You can get a second opinion even if you have started treatment or still want to be treated by your first doctor. You might decide you would prefer to be treated by the second specialist.


Talking about treatment decisions

Discussing the kind of care you might want in the future can be difficult. However, talking to your family about this can help them if you become too sick to make decisions, and they need to make decisions about your health care for you. Palliative Care Australia has developed a discussion starter that can help you reflect on your preferences for care and talk about them ask your family. See Dying to Talk Discussion Starter.


Should I join a clinical trial?

For some people with advanced cancer, taking part in a clinical trial may be a way to have new therapies. Doctors run clinical trials to test new or modified treatments and ways of diagnosing disease to see if they are better than current methods. For example, if you join a randomised trial for a new treatment, you will be chosen at random to receive either the best existing treatment or the modified new treatment. Over the years, trials have improved treatments and led to better outcomes for people diagnosed with cancer. You may find it helpful to talk to your specialist, clinical trials nurse or GP, to get a second opinion. If you decide to take part in a clinical trial, you can withdraw at any time. For more information, visit, Australian Cancer Trials.

For more on this, see Clinical trials and research.


Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on living with advanced cancer.


Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059

Kobo

To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.


This information was last reviewed in December 2019
View who reviewed this content
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