If you’re one of the many thousands of Australians diagnosed with cancer each year, on top of the shock of the diagnosis you have probably experienced further anxiety and confusion around deciding on your personal treatment plan.

Many cancer treatment options are available but as new treatments continue to be discovered, managing the disease is becoming more complex. Despite the complexity, it is important that you are able to confidently work with all of your health care providers to make a fully informed decision about the most appropriate course of action for you.

These conversations between you and your clinicians will enable you to choose the right treatments based on the best available evidence, and can help eliminate any unnecessary tests, treatments or procedures. The initiative is being led by Australia’s medical colleges and societies and is facilitated by NPS MedicineWise.

Radiation treatment

About one in every three people will develop cancer in their lifetime and half will require radiation as part of their treatment. Last month The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR) Faculty of Radiation Oncology released five new recommendations on radiation therapy for cancer, including the following recommendations for the treatment of breast and prostate cancers – two of the most common cancers in Australia.

Whole-breast radiation

Women aged 50 years or over with early-stage invasive breast cancer are encouraged to discuss with their radiation oncologists the option of shorter courses of radiation therapy of around 3 to 4 weeks rather than the ‘conventionally fractionated’ schedules that deliver therapy for up to 6 weeks. Recent studies have demonstrated equivalent tumour control and cosmetic outcomes.

Low-risk prostate cancer

It’s recommended men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer speak with their cancer specialist about whether it’s more appropriate for their cancer to be managed through conservative monitoring or ‘active surveillance’ rather than undertaking radiation therapy or surgery.

In all cases it’s important if you are facing any kind of medical test or procedure to ask the questions that will give you all of the information and evidence needed to make the right treatment choice for you.

Gather the facts

If you are diagnosed with cancer it’s important for you and your family to have access to the latest information on available treatment options and to discuss these with your health professionals.

Whether you’re starting a new cancer treatment or wondering if a particular approach is still right for you, there are five key questions Choosing Wisely Australia has developed for you to ask your doctors. They apply to any test, treatment or procedure for any health condition, including the prescription of medicines.

  • Do I really need this test or procedure?
  • What are the risks, including side effects?
  • Are there simpler, safer options?
  • What happens if I don’t do anything?
  • What are the costs?

More information

To find out more about the Choosing Wisely Australia initiative and the recommendations developed by RANZCR, visit www.choosingwisely.org.au

Last Reviewed: 24/10/2019

© Norman Swan Medical Communications.