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Benefits and disadvantages of cancer treatment


If you are offered a choice of treatments, you will need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each treatment. If only one type of treatment is recommended, ask your doctor to explain why other choices have not been offered.

Some people with more advanced cancer will choose treatment, even if it only offers a small chance of cure. Others want to make sure the benefits of treatment outweigh any side effects. Still others will choose the treatment they believe offers them the best quality of life.

Some people may choose not to have treatment to eradicate cancer, but instead will choose to have symptoms managed to optimise their physical and emotional well-being. You may wish to discuss your options with you treatment team, family and friends, or with a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

Questions you may want to ask include:

  • What’s the best we can hope for by trying another treatment? What is the goal?
  • Is this treatment plan meant to help side effects, slow the spread of cancer, or both?
  • Is there a chance that a new treatment will be found while we try the old one?
  • What’s the most likely result of trying this treatment?
  • What are the possible side effects and other downsides of the treatment? How likely are they?
  • Are the possible rewards bigger than the possible drawbacks?

It is important to ask your health care team what to expect in the future. It’s also important to be clear with them about how much information you want to receive from them.

If you feel that you would like to stop treatment, but your family or your partner does not want you to, it might help for you and your doctor or a counsellor or psychologist to talk to your family or your partner about their feelings.