Treatment for advanced cancer
The aim of treatment for advanced cancer is to control the cancer for as long as possible. This might mean shrinking the size of the cancer or slowing its growth for a while. In some cases, this may be months or years. If treatment is no longer controlling the cancer, the aim of treatment is to relieve the physical and emotional symptoms of cancer (palliative treatment).
New drugs are constantly becoming available, so if your current treatment stops working or you are finding it hard to cope with the side effects, ask your doctor about what else you can try. Also, ask if you are eligible to join a clinical trial.
Treatment choices for advanced cancer will depend on where the cancer started and how much it has spread. Usually cancer that has spread needs systemic treatment. This means treatment is taken by mouth or injected into the bloodstream to reach cancer cells throughout the body. Examples include chemotherapy, immunotherapy and hormone therapy. Treatment that affects only a certain part of the body might also be used to relieve some symptoms. Examples include surgery and radiation therapy.
These treatments can also be used palliatively, which means they aim to manage the physical and emotional symptoms of cancer.
A range of health professionals will work as a multidisciplinary team to treat you.
Learn more about:
- Making treatment decisions
- When treatment seems too much
- Hormone therapy
- Targeted therapy
- Radiation therapy
- Palliative care
- Complementary and alternative therapies
- Your healthcare team
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
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.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.