- Cancer Information
- Managing side effects
- Pain and cancer
- What is cancer pain?
- Making treatment decisions
Making treatment decisions
Sometimes it is difficult to decide on how to manage cancer-related pain. You may feel that there is a lot of information to think about, and you may be unsure about the best form of pain management. Ask your treatment team to explain the options, and take as much time as you can before making a decision.
Learn more about:
- Knowing your options
- Recording the details
- Asking questions
- It’s your decision
- Joining a clinical trial
- Video: What are clinical trials?
Understanding what causes the pain, the suggested treatments, possible side effects and any extra costs can help you weigh up the options and make a well-informed decision. Even if you don’t want to take up an option immediately, you may be able to later on. Discuss your level of pain with your doctor and find out what kind of impact the treatments could have on the pain.
When your doctor first talks with you about your treatment options, you may not remember everything you are told. Taking notes can help, or you might like to ask if you can record the discussion. 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.
If you are confused or want to check anything, it is important to as questions. Try to prepare a list before appointments. Bringing your pain diary and your answers to these questions will also help your health care team understand how you’re feeling. If your doctors use medical terms you don’t understand, it’s okay to ask for a simpler explanation.
Adults have the right to accept or refuse any treatment that they are offered. For example, some people with advanced cancer choose treatment that has significant side effects even if it relieves the pain for only a short period of time. Others decide to focus their treatment on quality of life. You may want to discuss your decision with the treatment team, GP, family and friends.
For more on this, see Cancer care and your rights.
Your doctor or nurse may suggest you take part in a clinical trial. 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, or to get a second opinion. If you decide to take part in a clinical trial, you can withdraw at any time.
Video: What are clinical trials?
Medical Oncologist Dr Elizabeth Hovey explains what clinical trials are and how they can improve cancer treatment.
Podcast: Managing Cancer Pain
Dr Tim Hucker, Pain Medicine Specialist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Keiron Bradley, Palliative Care Consultant, Bethesda Health Care, WA; A/Prof Anne Burke, Co-Director Psychology, Central Adelaide Local Health Network, President, Australian Pain Society, Statewide Chronic Pain Clinical Network, SA, School of Psychology, The University of Adelaide, SA; Tumelo Dube, Accredited Pain Physiotherapist, Michael J Cousins Pain Management and Research Centre, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Prof Paul Glare, Chair in Pain Medicine, Palliative Medicine Specialist, Pain Management Research Institute, The University of Sydney, NSW; Andrew Greig, Consumer; Annette Lindley, Consumer; Prof Melanie Lovell, Palliative Care Specialist HammondCare, Sydney Medical School and The University of Technology Sydney, NSW; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Melanie Proper, Pain Management Specialist Nurse Practitioner, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Dr Alison White, Palliative Medicine Specialist and Director of Hospice and Palliative Care Services, St John of God Health Care, WA.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.