How to be Your Own Best Cancer Care Advocate

No one likes to think about being diagnosed with cancer. However, the reality is that it will happen to about 230,000 Canadians this year, 90 percent of them people aged 50 or more. Two in every five Canadians will get cancer in their lifetime. 

When it comes to those involved in making decisions about your cancer care, don’t forget that you are one of the most important people at the table. 

Through the process of “shared-decision making”, you can play an active role with your healthcare team to make these important decisions. Working together, you can ensure that the care and treatment decisions are right for you, considering your cancer situation and overall health but also your personal values and life goals. 

Talking to Your Healthcare Team

Before you meet with your doctors, write down any questions you have or print this page. During your appointment, take notes and don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek clarification. Many people also find it helpful to bring a friend or family member to appointments.

A great way to start the conversation with your healthcare team is to let them know more about you and what’s important to you. For instance, your goal may be to stay well enough through treatment to play golf, take a vacation, or to attend an important milestone like a wedding.

When speaking with your healthcare team, there are also some important issues for you to consider together when making a decision about your care and treatment, including:

  • The type and stage of cancer you have
  • Your overall health status and how that will determine the types of treatments you can cope with
  • Side effects and any risks of treatments
  • Quality of life versus how long you can live
  • Your priorities, values, beliefs and goals

5 Questions Every Cancer Patient Should Ask Their Doctor:

1) What are my treatment options and what are their benefits and risks?

There are many different treatment options available, each with their own pros and cons. Work with your doctor to find the best treatment regimen for your type of cancer. 

2) How will I know if my treatment is working?

Make sure you understand your overall treatment plan, the goals of each stage and what happens if a treatment is or isn’t working. 

3) How will this treatment make me feel?

Maintaining a good quality of life during treatment is important. Talk to your doctor about what’s important to you – work, travel, fatigue, sex life, etc. – and ask if there are treatment options that best meet your unique needs and preferences.

4) Can I get a second opinion?

Arriving at a treatment plan that’s right for you can involve input from multiple doctors. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor to put you in touch with other specialists.

5) Are there any clinical trials I could be a part of?

If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial, be sure to ask your doctor about your eligibility for current trials. To find a cancer trial in Canada, visit

Download this list of question here and bring it to your next doctor’s visit.
Read more about getting involved in your cancer care: