All health care in Australia should be safe and of high quality
A range of health professionals may be involved in your treatment and your care. Find out who your key contact is – the person you can contact directly with questions or concerns.
This diagram shows who could be in your treating team.
- Your GP
- Medical oncologist
- Pancreatic cancer surgeon
- Palliative care physician
- Cancer nurses
- Social worker
- Physiotherapist or Exercise physiologist
Good communication between you and your treating team is very important.
You should expect to:
- Understand your health condition and plans for your treatment
- Be able to ask any question that you want answered
- Know who the members of your treating team are
- Know who your contact person in the team is in case you have questions
- Have clear, open and respectful communication with all health staff
- Be able to request copies of your tests and reports if you wish to have them
- Ask how experienced a health professional is with treating pancreatic cancer
- Seek 2nd or 3rd opinions if you want to
- Negotiate a break in your treatment if you believe you need it
- Have someone ask you about your needs for support
Review the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights (pdf) for patients, families and carers.
”I think it’s about your attitude and it’s about, getting something done or what is our course of action and not being afraid to ask questions, or to challenge people, or to find out, what more could I find out now that I didn’t know back then?Damien, 57yrs with pancreatic cancer
Questions to ask
If you can, take someone with you to medical appointments
Being given a lot of information can be overwhelming so a friend or family member can be a second pair of ears. If English is not your first language, try to take an English speaking family member or friend with you – even when an interpreter is available.
Think about (and write down) the questions you want to ask. Commonly asked questions are:
- The type of pancreatic cancer, its spread and the recommended treatments. For example surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy
- Where the treatment will take place & what are the side effects?
- The impact of cancer treatment on diet. Will I need to see a dietitian and take dietary enzymes?
- The cost of the treatments and medicines and if these can be reduced
- Are any clinical trials suitable for me?
- Ways to complement medical treatment such as massage, exercise or meditation
- Are there other things such as emotional and practical support I might need?
- When will palliative care be suggested?
- What does this diagnosis mean for my future?
Ask every question that you want answered
Advice about talking to cancer doctors is given in this video.
Chris, a pancreatic cancer patient talks about getting second opinions.
”I got neuropathy, numb and weak fingers and toes when I had chemotherapy. My friend is a pianist, he told his doctor that he was concerned this would happen to him – so he and his doctor talked and made decisions about the treatment and what was right for himSteve, 69 yrs living with pancreatic cancer
Once you are in hospital, you will meet lots of different people. Ask your treating doctor who your contact person (key contact) is going to be – the person you can call directly if you have questions about how you are feeling, your treatment or the next steps. This might be a pancreatic cancer specialist nurse, nurse co-ordinator, or doctor.
”I am the focal point of contact with families if they have concerns with any emotional or physical symptoms or issues throughout their cancer journey. Patients are given my contact details for during business hours. Its absolutely important to have a go to person, its hugely helpful for them.Meg, Gastrointestinal nurse specialist.
The other options for obtaining advice are:
The Cancer Council has a free, confidential information and support service for all people affected by cancer in all states of Australia. Call 13 11 20 (Mon to Fri 9am to 5pm) if you or your family have any questions. Cancer Council can send information to you and connect you with support services in your area.
A nurse specialist or patient services coordinator at the Pancare Foundation can talk with you about your cancer and answer any questions that you might have. It can be really useful to talk with a person who is aware of the issues people with pancreatic cancer face. Contact Pancare on 1300 881 698.
”I don’t think I had many problems at all. I was quite a lucky patient given some. If I had a question I’d go to the Pancare nurse and I’d talk to her because she was an expert at what she was doing.Graham, 56yrs with pancreatic cancer