Making treatment decisions
Skin cancers may be treated by GPs, dermatologists, surgeons and radiation oncologists. Ask your doctor to explain the treatment options, and take as much time as you can before making a decision.
Learn more about:
- Knowing your options
- Recording the details
- Asking questions
- Deciding on treatment
- Getting support
- Considering a second opinion
- Joining a clinical trial
- Video: What are clinical trials?
Know your options
Understanding the type of skin cancer, the available treatments, possible side effects and any extra costs can help you weigh up the options and make a well-informed decision. Be guided by your doctor, and weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of different treatments.
Record the details
Many people like to take a relative or friend with them to appointments to join in the discussion, write notes or simply listen. If you would like to record the discussion, ask your doctor first.
If you are confused or want to check anything, it is important to ask questions. Try to prepare a list before appointments.
It’s your decision
Adults have the right to accept or refuse any treatment offered by doctors and other health professionals.
If you have a partner, you may want to discuss the treatment options with them. Talking to friends and family, or to other people who have had similar experiences, may also be helpful. Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 to find out ways to connect with others for mutual support.
Consider a second opinion
You may want to get a second opinion from another doctor to confirm or clarify your doctor’s recommendations or reassure you that you have explored all of your options. Doctors are used to people doing this.
Your doctor can refer you to another doctor 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 doctor. You might decide you would prefer to be treated by the doctor who provided the second opinion.
Should I join a clinical trial?
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.
Learn more about the different types of skin cancer.
Video: What are clinical trials?
In this video, Medical Oncologist Dr Elizabeth Hovey explains what clinical trials are and how they can improve cancer treatment.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
A/Prof Stephen Shumack, Dermatologist, Royal North Shore Hospital and The University of Sydney, NSW; Dr Margaret Chua, Radiation Oncologist, Head of Radiation Oncology, Skin and Melanoma, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; John Clements, Consumer; Aoife Conway, Skin Lead and Radiation Oncology Nurse, GenesisCare, Mater Hospital, NSW; Sandra Donaldson, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Kath Lockier, Consumer; Dr Isabel Gonzalez Matheus, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Principal House Officer, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; A/Prof Andrew Miller, Dermatologist, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Dr Helena Rosengren, Chair Research Committee, Skin Cancer College of Australasia, and Medical Director, Skin Repair Skin Cancer Clinic, QLD; Dr Michael Wagels, Staff Specialist Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, Princess Alexandra Hospital and Surgical Treatment and Rehabilitation Service, and Senior Lecturer, The University of Queensland, QLD; David Woods, Consumer.
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