Asking about your prognosis

Your prognosis includes information about how your cancer is likely to progress, including 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?

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.

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 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 even 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.

Understanding the Emotional Effects of Cancer - A guide for cancer patients booklet

This booklet has been written to help you understand more about the emotional effects of cancer. This booklet is for anyone affected by cancer.

Read more


Tips and advice on coping with feelings after a cancer diagnosis and during treatment.


About the Irish Cancer Society’s one-to-one support programme for newly diagnosed patients.

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Anxiety and depression

Information about coping with anxiety and depression following a cancer diagnosis.

For more information


1800 775 885