Talking with your health-care team

PDF download is not available for Arabic and Urdu languages at this time. Please use the browser print function instead

Your health-care team is there to support you and answer any questions you might have. Find out how much you should share with them, how to talk to your team on your own and what to do if they can't answer your questions.

Key points

  • Ask anyone on your health-care team questions you may have about tests, procedures, treatments and what to expect.
  • It is important for you to be honest with your health-care team, even if some information is difficult or embarrassing to share.
  • You can ask your health-care team to speak to them alone if there's information you aren't comfortable sharing in front of your parent or guardian.
  • If you are worried about any of the uncertainties or unknowns of cancer treatment, talk to your health-care team or your parents.

Your health-care team is there to support you and your family. Your health-care team will include people who will help you with your medical needs, such as your doctors and nurses. It will also include people who will help you with your nutrition, emotions and other things that will help keep your life on track during your treatment.

Who can I ask when I have questions?

Everyone on your health-care team can answer your questions about your cancer and your treatment. You might think your doctor or other team members are too busy or that your question is not really that important. This is not true! Be sure to ask questions about procedures, lab results, medications, side effects or anything else that is not clear to you or that you might want to know more about. There are no 'dumb' questions! Any question that is important to you is important to your health-care team.

How much should I share with my health-care team?

Members of your health-care team will ask you many questions about how you are feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s important to be honest with the doctors and nurses about any problems you are having. These problems could be physical symptoms caused by your cancer or treatment, or they could be related to feelings or thoughts you are having. Your team needs to know how you are really dealing with cancer and your treatment and how it is affecting your life, so they can help you find solutions.

You may also have questions about topics that are tough to talk about like relationships, sexuality or fertility. Sometimes, you might need to talk about something that you find embarrassing. Talking about feelings can be hard too. Remember not to feel embarrassed; the members of your health-care team have talked about these topics with many other young people before.

Social workers, psychologists and child-life specialists are trained to help people talk about and deal with difficult topics.

Who can I talk to about the tough stuff?

Most teens say that during their treatment they found someone on their team (for example, a nurse, social worker, child-life specialist, psychologist or chaplain) with whom they felt comfortable sharing thoughts and feelings. If you would like to talk to a specific person, ask for them. Sometimes it is easier to talk to your health-care team about difficult feelings than it is to talk to your parents. That’s OK.

Talking to my health-care team on my own

At times, you may wish to speak with your doctor or health-care team on your own. There may be things that you find difficult to talk about in front of your parents. This is expected as you grow more independent.

Your health-care team may suggest that you talk with them alone or, if you’re comfortable, you can ask to meet alone with someone on your team that you trust. Your parents might find this a little strange at first, but your health-care provider can reassure them that it is normal (and important) for teens to meet with people on their own sometimes.

What you ask and tell the people on your health-care team is confidential. This means it’s private information and is not shared with anyone without your permission. Sometimes exceptions have to be made, for instance, if your safety is at risk. If information needs to be shared, you will be included in the decision of how that will happen.

What if they can't answer my questions?

Cancer treatment often comes with some uncertainty. There may be times when your doctors and nurses will not have answers to your questions. Many teens find it difficult to cope with some of these ‘unknowns’ or unanswered questions. If you find that it is affecting your mood or causing you to be worried or fearful, please be sure to talk to a member of your health-care team or to your parents.

Here are some video clips to show you a couple of ways that someone can communicate with their health-care team.

Take a look at the first video clip and think about what works well or what could be better.


What do you think of that conversation? How do you think the teen and health-care provider feel afterwards? What would you do differently?

Now, take a look at the second clip and notice what is different.


What do you think was different about this conversation? How do you think the teen and health-care provider feel now?

When you plan what you want to say and are open with your health-care team, they will understand more about how you’re really feeling and you will get more out of your treatment.

Last updated: September 3rd 2019