- Cancer Information
- Advanced cancer
- Living with advanced cancer
- Treatment for advanced cancer
- When treatment seems too much
When treatment seems too much
It can seem worthwhile dealing with treatment side effects for a primary cancer. But when a cure is unlikely, you may not want to have treatments that leave you feeling exhausted or sick, even if they may help you to live longer.
- Before you start or stop treatment, think about the benefits and drawbacks. Decisions rarely have to be made immediately.
- Ask yourself if you are feeling unwell from the side effects of the treatment, from the advancing disease or from the emotions of the diagnosis. Some or all of these may be able to be treated.
- Check with your health care team whether teatment can be adjusted.
- Speak to professionals, such as a counsellor or social worker, who can help you decide what is important to you.
Refusal of medical treatment
You have the right to consent to, stop or refuse any treatment offered. If you stop or refuse treatment, your medical team must be confident that you understand the treatment proposed and the consequences of not having it. You can stop or refuse each treatment separately – you do not have to accept treatment on an all-or-nothing basis.
In all states and territories, you can complete an advance care directive, which your treating doctors must follow. You can appoint a substitute decision-maker to make treatment decisions if you are no longer able to do so.
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.