About cancer

Talking to members of your healthcare team

Time with doctors, nurses  and other healthcare professionals can feel limited. Sometimes, even if something is being explained clearly, it may be hard for you to take in what is said. But if you don’t understand or if you have questions, it is important that you ask.

If you have any questions you would like answered before your next hospital appointment, your GP, hospital doctor, specialist nurse or cancer information centre staff may be able to help. You can contact them by phone or letter.

If you live near a Maggie's Centre, you could drop in for a chat to clarify what you had explained in clinic. If you are not near  a Centre or prefer to stay online  you can always access Maggie's Online Centre for  help, information and support.

The following are tips to help you get more out of your time with your GP or hospital staff.

Before your appointment

  • Check the time, date and place of the appointment and the names of the doctors you are due to see.
  • Plan your questions before your appointment. It can help to write them down. Many people with cancer have said it’s not always easy to remember questions once you are in the consultation. You could write to your doctor before to let them know your questions and concerns.
  • Ask a relative or friend to come along to help you remember what to ask and what is said.
  • Take a notepad with you to take notes.
  • Some hospitals encourage patients to tape record consultations with their doctor to help them remember what is said. If you would like to do this, check with your doctor or nurse before your appointment.
  • Many hospitals will automatically send you a copy of the letter to the GP, explaining what was discussed in the appointment - you could ask if this would be possible.

At the appointment

Healthcare staff should introduce themselves. It can be helpful to make a note of their names, titles and contact details in case you have questions later.

  • Tell the doctor how much you want to know about your cancer and how much you want to be involved in your treatment and care.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the doctor to repeat things or explain them more simply.
  • You can ask the doctor or nurse to draw a diagram or write a brief note of what has been said.
  • If you are not sure about anything ask more questions.


By law everyone working in the NHS must keep you records confidential. Information will not usually be given to your family or carers without your agreement.