Making decisions

After a cancer diagnosis, you will probably need to make a number of decisions. These could include which treatments to have, how to involve or care for your family and friends, whether or when to return to work, and what to do about finances.

Listen to our podcasts on Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis and Making Treatment Decisions

Know your options 

Understanding the disease, the available treatments, possible side effects and any extra costs can help you weigh up the options and make well-informed decisions.

Take your time

Check with your specialist how soon treatment should begin. If it is safe to wait a while, use that time to think about your decisions. Generally, people find it easier to make decisions (and have fewer regrets later) if they take time to gather information and think about the possible consequences.

Get expert advice 

Ask your health professionals to clearly explain your treatment options, and the benefits and side effects of each.

Social workers can advise you and your carer about non-medical concerns such as financial assistance, how to get extra help at home, and support for relationship or emotional difficulties. You can also call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for information and support.

Write it down 

Organising your thoughts on paper is often easier than trying to do it in your head. Start by identifying the purpose of the treatment (is it to cure the cancer, to control it or to be as comfortable as possible?), then list the pros and cons of each treatment option. You could rate how important each point is on a scale of 1–5, considering the short-term and long-term effects on you and others.

Talk it over 

Discuss the options with those close to you, such as your partner, family members and close friends. You may feel worried about how your decisions will affect them, so hearing their opinions could put your mind at rest. Sometimes, however, you might prefer to talk to someone neutral, such as a member of your treatment team or one of the health professionals at Cancer Council 13 11 20.

Consider a second opinion 

Some people ask for a second opinion from another specialist to confirm or clarify their specialist’s recommendations or just for reassurance that they have explored all the 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 specialist. You might decide you would prefer to be treated by the second specialist.

Use a decision aid 

Decision aids are online or printed resources that help you choose between treatment options by answering a series of questions and focusing on what matters most in your own case.

There are decision aids for certain cancer-related issues (e.g. whether to have breast reconstruction) − ask your treatment team if a decision aid is available for your situation.

Expect to experience doubts 

Being unsure does not mean you have taken the wrong path. Reassure yourself that you made the best decisions you could with the information you had at the time. Asking yourself, “Did I make the right decisions?” is rarely useful. Also, decisions are not always final – it may be possible to change your mind even after you have already started down a particular treatment path.

Remember it’s your decision 

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 gives only a small benefit for 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.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on emotions and cancer

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

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Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

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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”.
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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.

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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
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
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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 January 2019
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Support services

Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum

Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment

Cancer information

Deciding on specialist care
How to find and choose a surgeon, oncologist or other specialist

Making cancer treatment decisions
Decision-making steps, consent and second opinions

View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends