For GPs

Talking To Your Doctor

When you or your loved ones are first diagnosed with cancer, an important step will be to meet your radiation oncologist. They will talk to you about your type of cancer and discuss the treatment options available to you. Other doctors will also have been involved in the lead up to seeing the Radiation Oncologist, including your GP, a surgeon and/or a medical oncologist or other medical specialists.

Treatment decisions should be made after you have discussed your priorities and concerns with all specialists involved in the management of your particular cancer. You should understand the role of surgery, radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) and chemotherapy in the treatment of your cancer and you should only decide on a treatment plan after you have heard and understood your options. Do not hesitate to ask for more opinions or information if you need it, or to see your Radiation Oncologist for a second consultation.

Some considerations about treatment that you may wish to discuss with your doctor(s) prior to any form of cancer treatment include:

  • What are all the treatment options that might be effective?
  • What are the success rates of each type of treatment?
  • What are the specific short-term and long-term side effects of each type of treatment?
  • How do these compare with other treatment options?
  • How much time will I need off work?
  • How will treatment impact on my family and social life?
  • How much will treatment cost?
  • What are the possible impacts on sexual function, sexual drive and fertility?

There may be other things that are important to you to live a full and enjoyable life, and you should add questions about these to the above list.

Your first visit with your radiation oncologist may include a lot of medical information, which can often be overwhelming. Taking a family member or a friend along can provide support and also help you remember what was discussed. You can also record the consultation if you wish. It’s a good idea to write down a list of questions to take into the consultation and take notes on what the doctor tells you. Ask your doctor for printed leaflets if available, or to recommend websites that might be useful.

Your GP or other doctors in the cancer team can organise a referral to a radiation oncologist. Depending on where you live and/or work, and on the type of cancer you have, they can help you find the most suitable radiation oncology centre for you to be assessed.

Useful Resources

The ‘Patient Pathway’ video below outlines the pathway that a patient will go through when being treated using radiation therapy. This video shows the roles of each of the specialties in the radiation oncology team including radiation oncologists, radiation therapists and radiation oncology medical physicists.


Page last updated: 20/10/2020