Asking about your prognosis

Doctor showing man an x-ray

Your prognosis includes information about whether your cancer can be cured and if your cancer is likely to progress. Some people want to know about average survival times or life expectancy.

It’s not always easy for doctors to answer a question about life expectancy. Everyone is different, so what happens to you might be quite different from what the doctor expects.

Should I ask about my prognosis?

Every person is different, some want information about their prognosis, others may not want this information or may ask for information about their prognosis at a later stage. 

If your prognosis is better than expected, you may feel more hopeful about your illness and your future. You may feel more in control by having as much information as possible. Or you may not want to know about your prognosis. You may prefer not to think about the future too much or you may worry how you will cope if you get bad news.

Understanding more about your cancer can help you, and your loved ones, make decisions. Some of these decisions may include:

  • Making decisions about which treatment is best for you
  • What to tell your loved ones about your illness
  • Deciding about your work life and dealing with financial and legal matters
  • Making decisions about your future care and advance healthcare planning

If you want information on your prognosis:

  • Think carefully about how you will cope with the information before asking for your prognosis.
  • Get information on your prognosis from your cancer doctor. They know your individual circumstances. Your doctor can also support you in understanding the information and answer any questions you have.
  • Ask a friend or family member to go with you, if you would like some support.
  • Be careful with online information. It may be hard to understand or it may be incorrect.  Also, the information may not really apply to your situation or to your particular cancer type. Ask your doctor or nurse specialist for recommended websites. 
  • Accept that you will need some time to think about what you have been told. You may forget some things or there may be things you didn’t understand. You may need to talk to your doctor again after you have thought about everything.

Emotional support

If you feel upset or anxious about your prognosis you can get support from friends, family or your hospital team. You can also call our Support Line on Freephone 1800 200 700, visit a Daffodil Centre or email

Our cancer nurses can also tell you about counselling and other services that might help you and your loved ones.

Understanding the emotional effects cover
The emotional effects of cancer - A guide for cancer patients booklet
This booklet covers how cancer might affect your emotions, what you can do to feel better, and where to get professional support.

For more information

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1800 200 700

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