The questions below may help you to understand your options if you have been diagnosed with advanced cancer, and ways that you can manage your diagnosis.
Learn more about:
- What happens now?
- What treatments are available?
- How will advanced cancer affect my day-to-day life?
- Will palliative care help?
- How long have I got?
Some people’s cancer may be advanced when they are first diagnosed. For others, the cancer may have spread or come back (recur) after treatment.
Advanced cancer usually can’t be cured, but it can often be controlled. This is known as palliative treatment. Sometimes treatment can shrink the cancer, stop or slow the spread of advanced cancer, or relieve side effects. This can help maintain quality of life for several years. In this case, the cancer may be considered a chronic (long-term) disease. Some people join clinical trials to try new treatments.
Treatment will depend on where the cancer started, how far and where it has spread, and your general health, treatment goals and preferences for care.
Common treatments include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, targeted therapy, hormone therapy, and immunotherapy. These may be used alone or in combination. These treatments are often used as part of palliative treatment. Sometimes treatment is also available through clinical trials.
Treatments can be used for different reasons, so talk to your health care team about the aim of each treatment. For further details, see Treatment for advanced cancer.
Prof Nicholas Glasgow, Head, Calvary Palliative and End of Life Care Research Institute, ACT; Kathryn Bennett, Nurse Practitioner, Eastern Palliative Care Association Inc., VIC; Dr Maria Ftanou, Head, Clinical Psychology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and Research Fellow, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, VIC; Erin Ireland, Legal Counsel, Cancer Council NSW; Nikki Johnston, Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner, Clare Holland House, Calvary Public Hospital Bruce, ACT; Judy Margolis, Consumer; Linda Nolte, Program Director, Advance Care Planning Australia; Kate Reed- Cox, Nurse Practitioner, National Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia; Helena Rodi, Project Manager, Advance Care Planning Australia; Kaitlyn Thorne, Coordinator Cancer Support, 13 11 20, Cancer Council Queensland.
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The information on this page is also available for download.
Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment