After a diagnosis of cancer, cancer patients and their family members play an important role in decision-making about cancer treatment. But the making of a decision is not an easy task. Often unfamiliar medical terminology, the urgency of treatment intervention, and statistics of treatment outcome create anxiety. It is always suggested to ask questions about all the treatment doubt to the healthcare team and do own research, though the urgency of treatment needs to keep in mind. A doctor cannot take cancer treatment decisions alone, therefore, patients and their family members should take an active part in the decision-making process. Therefore, the following points need to be discussed between doctors and cancer patients before starting the cancer treatment.
Cancer patients need to ask their doubts about the type of cancer and stage of cancer to their doctors. Patients may do an internet search about specific cancer and the stage, but it is always better to reconfirm their knowledge by asking questions to the healthcare team, as some information available on the internet mislead patients. Any confusion related to the diagnosis of cancer should be verified by cross-checking.
Taking knowledge about different treatment options
Patients need to talk with doctors about the available treatment options for the diagnosed cancer. The doctor may provide the following options depending upon the type of cancer and stage of cancer:
Watchful waiting for monitoring the changes
Participating in a clinical trial
Patients should ask about the treatment goal
Patients usually ask about the treatment goal to their doctor. The prescribed treatment may slow down, or cease the cancer growth to eliminate cancer. The doctor also may recommend palliative care for symptom management and reduce the side effects burden. Patients can also discuss the side effects of the prescribed treatment. Sometimes, the side effect burden is a considerable factor before starting the cancer treatment.
Details of side effects of each treatment options
Some cancer treatments cause long-term side effects or the side effects starts at late phase means develop after months or year of treatment starts. In such cases, the long-term side effects of each of the treatment options need to discuss along with side effect management options.
Patients can also ask about sexual or reproductive concerns with the health care team. Sometimes cancer treatment leads to infertility. Patients who do not complete their family before initiating the treatment, can also for alternative ways to preserve their fertility.
Cancer patients can analyze the risk-benefit ratio by asking detailed questions to their healthcare team related to the following factors.
Chances of a cure
Possibility of recurrence of cancer after completion of the prescribed treatment
Potential short- and long-term side effects
Efficacy of treatment in-terms of increase the duration of survival
Quality of life and independence during and after taking the treatment
Usually, the cancer treatment cost is expensive. Patients need to know about the overall expenditure of the available treatment options. Financial concerns need to discuss with the healthcare team so that the team can guide patients about any support services.
Understanding of statistics
Doctors usually mention the statistics of different available treatment options. The statistic usually helps to understand the disease free-survival rate, relative survival rate, and progression-free survival rate. The statistical analysis may not give any definite idea of which treatment will be better for the individual patient. But the patient can get an idea about how effective the available different treatment option. Patients can ask questions about the statistic to their healthcare team for a better understanding of the treatment outcome.