NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Rectal Cancer, Version 1.2017
Having cancer is very stressful. While
absorbing the fact that you have cancer,
you have to learn about tests and
treatments. In addition, the time you have
to accept a treatment plan feels short.
Parts 1 through 6 described the cancer
and treatment options. Part 7 aims to help
you make decisions that are in line with
your beliefs, wishes, and values.
It’s your choice
The role each person wants in choosing his or her
treatment differs. You may feel uneasy about making
treatment decisions. This may be due to a high level
of stress. It may be hard to hear or know what others
are saying. Stress, pain, and drugs can limit your
ability to make good decisions. You may feel uneasy
because you don’t know much about cancer. You’ve
never heard the words used to describe cancer,
tests, or treatments. Likewise, you may think that
your judgment isn’t any better than your doctors’.
Letting others decide which option is best may make
you feel more at ease. But, whom do you want to
make the decisions? You may rely on your doctors
alone to make the right decisions. However, your
doctors may not tell you which option to choose if
you have multiple good options. You can also have
loved ones help. They can gather information, speak
on your behalf, and share in decision-making with
your doctors. Even if others decide which treatment
you will receive, you still have to agree by signing a
On the other hand, you may want to take the lead
or share in decision-making. Most patients do. In
shared decision-making, you and your doctors
share information, weigh the options, and agree on
a treatment plan. Your doctors know the science
behind your plan but you know your concerns and
goals. By working together, you are likely to get a
higher quality of care and be more satisfied. You’ll
likely get the treatment you want, at the place you
want, and by the doctors you want.
Questions to ask your doctors
You may meet with experts from different fields of
medicine. Strive to have helpful talks with each
person. Prepare questions before your visit and ask
questions if the person isn’t clear. You can also take
notes and get copies of your medical records.
It may be helpful to have your spouse, partner, family
member, or a friend with you at these visits. A patient
advocate or navigator might also be able to come.
They can help to ask questions and remember what
was said. Suggested questions to ask are listed on
the following pages.
Making treatment decisions
It's your choice | Questions to ask
I did attend an ostomy support
group during my treatments, which
was helpful. These were people
who knew exactly what I was going
through since some of them were
rectal cancer survivors.
Survivor, Stage III