Making treatment decisions

Sometimes it is difficult to decide on the type of treatment to have. You may feel that everything is happening too fast. Check with your doctor how soon your treatment should start, and take as much time as you can before making a decision.

Understanding the disease, the 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 may also want to discuss the options with your doctor, complementary health practitioner, friends and family.

You have the right to accept or refuse any treatment offered. Some people with more advanced cancer choose treatment even if it offers only a small benefit for a short period of time. Others want to make sure the benefits outweigh the side effects so they have the best possible quality of life.

Deciding whether to use complementary therapies and which ones to choose is a similar process to deciding on a course of conventional treatment. Some people with cancer may feel pressure from friends and family to use complementary therapies, and may feel guilty if the therapy they choose doesn’t offer any benefit.

Some people will consider complementary therapies at the time of their diagnosis; others will not think about using them until later, perhaps as part of their supportive or palliative care.

Cancer Council warns against delaying or stopping conventional treatment in favour of an alternative therapy.

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Helpful tips for choosing complementary therapies

Weigh up the different types of treatments

  • Think about what you expect to gain from using complementary therapies.
  • Consider the possible side effects of complementary therapies, how these might affect you, and how they may interact with your conventional treatments.
  • Consider whether you prefer to use complementary therapies with strong scientific evidence, or whether anecdotal evidence is enough for you.
  • Think about the costs of treatments.

Find out more about different therapies

Discuss your concerns

  • Talk to your practitioner or doctor about the therapies you would like to try, and if there are any potential interactions or side effects when they are used with your conventional treatments.
  • Seek a second opinion if you are not happy with the information you are given.

This information was last reviewed in May 2015
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