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cancer treatment in hospital


Even if you’ve been to hospital before, you may have questions about what treatment in hospital for cancer will be like. Depending on your age, you could be treated at a paediatric (children’s) hospital or an adult hospital, and you may be in either the public or private system. The hospital you go to may also depend on where you live and the type of cancer you have. Not all hospitals provide cancer treatment, so you may have to travel, especially if you live in a rural area.

units for young people

Some hospitals in Australia have dedicated units or wards for teenagers and young adults with cancer. Some hospitals also have a treatment team or staff whose job is to specialise in working with young people. Visit the Youth Cancer Service website for more information about these services and their locations.

what will hospital be like?

Checking in to hospital will involve many forms and questions. You’ll probably answer the same questions over and over, which is part of getting the right information about you.


Depending on the hospital, you could be in your own room or sharing a ward with others. As well as wards, hospitals generally have other areas you can hang out in like lounges and gardens.


Most people stay in hospital at least a few nights initially, and some for longer. You could also be treated as an outpatient or day patient (someone who comes in during the day for treatment). Many people start as an inpatient for the initial period and surgery if needed, and then move to being an outpatient for treatment.


Some people end up in hospital very quickly once they’re diagnosed. This is where a Redkite support pack can be useful.

staying in hospital

If you’re staying in hospital for a while, there are a few things you can do to make it more comfortable. Some tips from other people your age who have been in that situation are:

  • Bring in familiar things from home (photos, posters, etc)
  • Invite visitors, or if you don’t feel up to it, post a “do not disturb” sign
  • Use your own pillow and doona
  • Get online to stay in touch with friends and check out other people’s cancer stories
  • Catch up on the books you’ve been meaning to read or DVD series you’ve missed
  • Write a blog about your experience – it’s a great way to answer everyone’s questions about what’s happening
  • Get to know the nurses and get their ideas on how to make hospital more comfortable
  • If you feel up to it, stay up-to-date with school, uni or even paid work

can I have visitors?

Every hospital will have different rules about visitors, but generally they are encouraged. If you’re at risk of infection, your visitors might have to wear gowns and gloves to prevent sharing germs with you.

Don’t worry if some people don’t visit – hospitals can make people uncomfortable, and staying in touch by phone or online might be best.


Sometimes relationships can change as you go through treatment. You might want to check out our section on relationships with your friends and if you’re worried, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Redkite support team.

can someone stay with me?

Generally, hospitals try to allow parents and partners to stay. If you’re from out of town, you might be worried about where your parents or family will stay while you’re having treatment. There are some great services that can help with accommodation, such as Ronald McDonald House and the Leukaemia Foundation. The Cancer Council can also help. Check out our resources page for more details.

who’s who in hospital

As part of your treatment, you’ll meet many different health professionals and trying to keep track of who does what can be challenging. Here’s a rough guide to the people who make up a cancer care team:

  • Oncologist – a doctor specialising in cancer. These can include:
    • Medical oncologist – diagnoses and treats patients, including use of chemotherapy
    • Radiation oncologist – will decide if a patient needs radiation therapy and manage this process
    • Surgical oncologist – specialises in using surgery to remove cancer
  • Haematologist – a doctor specialising in blood diseases including lymphoma or leukaemia
  • Consultant – a doctor who has completed their specialist training
  • Registrar – a doctor who is completing their specialist training
  • Resident/Intern – a junior doctor who will work with the Registrar
  • Radiologist –interprets your x-rays, MRIs and CAT scans
  • Nurses – they can also have different roles:
    • Registered nurse (or RN) – a nurse who provides care in hospitals
    • Oncology nurse – a registered nurse who has specialist training in cancer care
  • Cancer care coordinator – a nurse who is the main point of contact for cancer patients and their families, who will help communicate with your medical team
  • Social worker – a health professional who can support patients and families with emotional, social and practical support, information, counselling, navigating the health system, and making connections to other support services
  • Clinical psychologist – a trained therapist who can assist with the psychological aspects of dealing with cancer

You might also have people like physiotherapists, music therapists or dieticians who are there to help with some of the challenges or side effects of treatment.


These people form what is called a Multidisciplinary Team or MDT. An MDT is a team of professionals from all different areas working together to make sure you get the best possible care.

language and culture

Translating medical language can be hard enough at the best of times, but if English is a second language for you or others in your family it can be even harder. There are a number of services that can help.


The Cancer Council has information in several languages and a translation service. Redkite can also connect you with an interpreter service. Most public hospitals will provide access to interpreter services, and your hospital social worker will know more about this.


Depending on your cultural or religious background, you might be worried about having private consultations with a doctor. You can request a male or female doctor or take a family member or friend with you.

Last updated September 2015.