Shared Decision Making: Taking an Active Role in Your Cancer Care Journey

Share this article

A cancer diagnosis can be a life-altering and emotional event. Making important choices about your cancer journey can be complex and overwhelming, especially when decisions need to be made quickly. 

Shared decision-making can help you work with your healthcare team to make informed decisions and create a plan that aligns with what is most important to you.

What is Shared Decision Making?  

Shared decision-making is when you and your healthcare team work together to make informed medical decisions. It involves combining the best evidence-based science with your individual values, priorities, and lifestyle.

There are different approaches to shared decision-making, and the best approach will depend on your preferences. Some patients may prefer more guidance, while others may want an open dialogue. This relationship can also evolve over time as you learn more about your condition.

The benefit? Feeling empowered to navigate your care journey with confidence. By taking an active role in care decisions, your team can customize a care plan that meets your specific needs, and you can feel more comfortable with the path chosen and course correct as you move through it.

Building a Partnership With Your Care Team  

Central to shared decision-making is building a collaborative partnership between you and your care teams. This requires open communication, mutual respect, and shared responsibility. In a successful partnership, healthcare providers act as guides and allies.

Where can you start?

Icon of magnifying glass

Learn as much as you can about your diagnosis and test results.

Icon of individuals having a conversation

Share your preferences, values, and goals; ask a loved one to support if you need help.

Icon of a physician holding a clipboard

Ask about available care options and openly discuss the risks and benefits of each.

The following are some questions to help you open the discussion:

  1. What type and stage of cancer do I have?
  2. What is the current prognosis?
  3. What tests will be done to analyze my cancer type and determine the best care options?
  4. What are the available options, and what are the potential benefits, risks, and short- and long-term side effects?
  5. How will my care options affect my life, including work, family, hobbies, and personal responsibilities?
  6. What support groups, services or resources are available for my type of cancer?
  7. How will my healthcare team step in to help manage my health if I am feeling unwell during my care journey?
  8. How will we monitor the progress of my care?

Leaning on Available Resources and Support  

Knowledge is power. Patient support groups (PAGs) are one way you can gain access to invaluable resources and support, including medical information, care services, and community. By tapping into the collective knowledge and experiences of these communities, you can gain a deeper understanding of your condition, lean on others with shared experiences, and feel empowered to make well-informed decisions about your care.