- Cancer Information
- Practical concerns
- Cancer care and your rights
- Key questions about your health care rights
- What are patient responsibilities?
What are patient responsibilities?
Health professionals understand that dealing with cancer is challenging and many people feel vulnerable at this time. Developing an open and trusting relationship with your health care team during this time is important. If you expect your health care providers to behave in a certain way – for example, to communicate openly – it helps to behave the same way in return. Many hospitals and treatment centres have guidelines on patient responsibilities that cover the following 3 areas.
Learn more about:
These responsibilities relate to practical issues, including:
- treating staff and other patients with courtesy and respect
- being on time for appointments or letting the health care provider know if you are unable to attend an appointment
- following any policies of your health service, such as visiting hours, using mobile phones, smoke-free areas
- seeking permission if you would like to record consultations.
A key responsibility is to make sure your health care team has all the information they need to offer the best treatment for you.
Tell your health care team if:
- you have a question or problem – it’s important that you talk about issues you don’t understand or that are troubling you so your team can help. If English is not your first language, you can ask for an interpreter
- there are factors in your life that might affect treatment decisions – for example, if you live alone or care for a young family
- you have side effects or pain – your team may be able to adjust the treatment or offer you medicine to relieve side effects
- you’re seeing more than one doctor or another health professional (including complementary or alternative therapy practitioners) for any part of your care
- you decide not to follow their advice – for example, by not taking the prescribed medicine or having certain tests
- you are taking any other medicines (including over-the-counter drugs, complementary and alternative medicines, and bush medicines). Some medicines interact with cancer drugs, and this can cause side effects or reduce a treatment’s effectiveness.
Your doctor recommends treatment based on your initial test results and your overall health. Depending on how you respond to treatment, your doctor may have to adjust the agreed treatment plan. It’s important to be flexible and understand that your treatment may change over time. If changes occur, you still have the right to be involved as an equal partner when deciding on a new treatment plan.
It’s common to have to wait for tests and treatment in public hospitals. Waiting times depend on many factors, including the type of cancer, its stage, the treatment, and the hospital’s schedule. Hospitals aim to provide care to people in turn but without waiting for periods of time that would harm treatment outcomes. Waiting for treatment can be stressful – if you are anxious, speak to your doctor or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
Alternative therapies are therapies used instead of conventional medical treatments. These are unlikely to be scientifically tested, may prevent successful treatment of the cancer and can be harmful. Cancer Council does not recommend the use of alternative therapies as cancer treatment.
Podcast: Coping with a cancer diagnosis
Prof Sarah Lewis, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney, NSW; Kevin Bloom, Senior Social Worker, Haematology and Bone Marrow Transplant, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Danielle Curnoe, Consumer; Alana Fitzgibbon, Clinical Nurse Consultant – Gastro-Intestinal Cancers, Cancer Services, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; Hall & Wilcox (law firm); Johanna Jordaan, Consumer; Dr Deme Karikios, Medical Oncologist, Nepean Cancer and Wellness Centre, Nepean Hospital, NSW; Melissa Lawrie, Breast Cancer Clinical Nurse, Cancer Services, Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service, QLD; Jacqueline Lesage, Consumer Reviewer, Cancer Voices NSW; Andrew Potter, Consumer; Siân Slade, PhD Candidate, Nossal Institute for Global Health and Non-Executive Director (health, disability sectors), VIC; Paula Watt, Clinical Psychologist, WOMEN Centre, WA.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.