Making decisions about treatment

Making decisions about treatment

If you are given a choice of treatment, including no treatment for now, you will need to think about your options.

You may want to ask your doctor questions, such as:
• what is the goal of the treatment?
• can I expect to live longer if I have treatment?
• if I have treatment, is there a risk that my quality of life
will be affected by the treatment?
• are there other treatments for me?
• what is the chance of the treatment working?

“At first I wondered if ignorance was bliss, but
after a week I thought, ‘No’. It’s my body and I want
to know what is going to happen, and I want to
know, if I make a decision, what will happen.” Silei

A second opinion

You may want to ask another doctor about your cancer or treatment. You can ask your oncologist or general
practitioner to refer you to another cancer doctor.


Treatment options for bowel cancer

In most cases there are several ways of treating bowel cancer. These treatments include:
• surgery
• chemotherapy
• radiation treatment
• targeted therapies.
Most people have surgery. Some people receive a combination of two or more treatments. Your treatment will depend on the size of your cancer, its location and whether it has spread. Your generalhealth and your wishes are also important in the decision-making.

Your treatment team

You will be cared for by a range of health professionals, known as a multidisciplinary team. Each focuses on a
different part of your treatment. Working with you, the team will develop a treatment plan that offers you the best care.
Your multidisciplinary team is likely to include:
• a general practitioner—is responsible for your general health and referring you for specialist treatment
• a general surgeon or colorectal surgeon—is responsible for diagnostic tests and surgery to remove cancer from your
• a medical oncologist—specialises in cancer treatment using medication. They are responsible for prescribing any
chemotherapy and other treatment options, such as targeted therapies
• a radiation oncologist - specialises in radiation treatment. This person arranges, prescribes, plans and supervises any
course of radiation
• a radiologist—uses diagnostic imaging methods (such as CT scans) to see inside the body
• a pathologist—analyses samples of body tissue to help with diagnosing and staging your bowel cancer
• cancer nurses and care coordinators—provide assessments, support and information throughout your treatment
• a stomal therapist—helps you if you have a stoma bag (colostomy or ileostomy)
• a social worker—provides support and information about emotional and practical problems (such as employment
and financial issues, home help and childcare)
• a pharmacist—gives advice on medication
• a dietitian—gives advice on nutrition to help you to manage the effects on the bowel after surgery and during
other cancer treatments
• palliative care doctors and nurses—work closely with your general practitioner and oncologists to provide supportive
and palliative care. Their aim is to help you to manage the effects of your cancer at home and in hospital.

As well as the multidisciplinary team, hospitals have pastoral and spiritual care workers, and whānau and Pacific health
care workers. They are available on request to talk to you throughout your treatment.