Making treatment decisions
Sometimes it is difficult to decide on the type of treatment to have for 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
- Making a pain management plan
- Joining a clinical trial
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 talks with you about your treatment options, you may not remember everything you are told. Taking notes or recording the discussion may help. 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.
Before an appointment, it may help to write down your questions – see Questions for your doctor for some suggestions. 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. You can also check this glossary.
Adults have the right to accept or refuse any treatment that they are offered. If you are offered a choice of treatments, consider how severe your pain is compared with the side effects of the medicine or treatment. Consider the impact of the treatment on your 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.
Once you know your treatment options, talk with your treatment team about making a pain management plan. This is a written document setting out your prescribed therapies, possible side effects, and ways to manage them. It should also include advice about when and who to call if you have problems. Make sure you have a copy of the plan to take home with you and to show to all your health care providers.
The Managing cancer pain: planning for success booklet includes a pain management plan template and other self-management resources.
Your doctor or nurse may suggest that you take part in a clinical trial. Doctors run clinical trials to test new or modified treatments and ways of managing pain 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 for pain 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.
This information has been developed by Cancer Council NSW on behalf of all other state and territory Cancer Councils as part of a National Cancer Information Working Group initiative. We thank the reviewers of this information: Dr Tim Hucker, Clinical Lead, Pain Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and Lecturer, Monash University, VIC; Carole Arbuckle, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Anne Burke, Co-Director, Psychology, Central Adelaide Local Health Network, SA, and President Elect, The Australian Pain Society; Kathryn Collins, Co-Director, Psychology, Central Adelaide Local Health Network, SA; A/Prof Roger Goucke, Head, Department of Pain Management, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Director, WA Statewide Pain Service, and Clinical A/Prof, The University of Western Australia, WA; Chris Hayward, Consumer; Prof Melanie Lovell, Senior Staff Specialist, Palliative Care, HammondCare Centre for Learning and Research, Clinical A/Prof, Sydney Medical School, and Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, NSW; Linda Magann, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Palliative Care and Peritonectomy Palliative Care, St George Hospital, NSW; Tara Redemski, Senior Physiotherapist, Gold Coast University Hospital, Southport, QLD.
Thank you to the Australian Adult Cancer Pain Management Guideline Working Party, Improving Palliative Care through Clinical Trials (ImPaCCT), and the Centre for Cardiovascular and Chronic Care (University of Technology Sydney), whose work contributed to the development of the previous editions of this booklet. Thank you also to the original writers, Dr Melanie Lovell and Prof Frances Boyle AM.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.