Comprehending a diagnosis of advanced cancer and a raft of treatment options can be daunting for the most proficient of English speakers. So if you have difficulties with written or spoken English you may not only misunderstand what you have been told about your illness, but also miss out on additional useful information and services.

It is very important, if English or literacy is not your strength, to seek help in finding and interpreting information related to your illness.

What may help

Talk to your Doctor

If English is your second language, ask your doctor or health care provider to speak more slowly, repeat information, explain colloquialisms or even write down crucial points for you.

Use an interpreter

With notice, hospitals or doctors can sometimes provide an interpreter to translate at a consultation or over the phone. If not, you may need to organise one or find a family member who can do it.

Language resources

A variety of cancer and palliative care resources are available in languages other than English:

IInterpreting services

The Translating and Interpreting Service (13 14 50) offers assistance with communicating in a language other than English. You can ask for a male or a female interpreter, if need be. There is a fee for some services, but communication with medical practitioners is usually free.

Private interpreting services in your area may be found in the Yellow Pages under “Translations” and “Interpreters”.



Life, Hope & Reality was developed and written by Afaf Girgis, Claire Johnson, and Sylvie Lambert with funding from the NHMRC and Cancer Council NSW.

Last updated 30 August 2015