Palliative care (sometimes called supportive care) addresses the needs of people with a life-limiting illness in a holistic way. It provides individualised care to improve your quality of life and help you stay independent for as long as possible. Palliative care may be beneficial for people at any stage of advanced cancer – it is not just for end of life.
If you have been referred to palliative care, or if you are wondering whether palliative care is right for you, you may find it helpful to read our answers to key questions. You can also find out more about palliative treatment options and palliative care for young people. You can read more about the role of palliative care and how the care is provided below.
Learn more about:
- The role of palliative care
- Palliative care providers
- Services provided
- Video: What is palliative care?
Palliative care is person-centred care that helps people with a progressive, life-limiting illness to live as fully and comfortably as possible. The main goal is to help you maintain your quality of life by identifying and addressing your physical, emotional, cultural, social and spiritual needs. This type of care can help from the time of diagnosis, and can be given alongside other cancer treatments. Palliative care also offers support to families and carers.
Palliative care is an approach to care that may be delivered by any of your care providers, from doctors, nurses and allied health professionals, to volunteers and carers. Together these people make up your palliative care team.
Specialist palliative care services see people with more complex needs, and also provide advice to other health care professionals. These specialist services can be accessed through many public and private hospitals, palliative care units, and community-based palliative care providers. Not everyone needs specialist palliative care.
Depending on what services are available in your area, you and your family can choose where you want to receive palliative care. This may be at your home or residential aged care facility, in a hospital or specialist palliative care unit.
|Person-centred care responds to your needs, preferences and values, as well as the needs of your family and carers. It means that your health care provider will respect your care goals, and involve you in decisions about your treatment and ongoing care.|
Palliative care involves a range of services that will be tailored to your individual needs. Services may include:
- relief of pain, breathlessness, nausea and other symptoms
- help organising equipment for home (e.g. wheelchairs, special beds)
- assistance for families and carers to talk about sensitive issues
- links to other services such as home help and financial support
- support for people to meet cultural obligations
- counselling, grief and bereavement support
- support for emotional, social and spiritual concerns
- referrals to respite care services.
The palliative care team will work with you and your family to identify your care needs and care wishes, and may record these in a care plan. This plan will outline your care goals and how they will be met, as well as how any symptoms will be managed, and who to contact for help.
A care plan is not a fixed document – it should be reviewed regularly as your care needs change. It is important for your key family members or carers to be involved in any discussions about your care plan, especially if they are providing most of your day-to-day care.
What is Palliative Care?
Podcast for people affected by advanced cancer
Prof Katherine Clark, Clinical Director, Palliative Care, Northern Sydney Local Health District Cancer & Palliative Care Network, and Conjoint Professor, Northern Clinical School, University of Sydney, NSW; Richard Austin, Social Worker, Specialist Palliative Care Service, TAS; Sondra Davoren, Manager, Treatment and Supportive Care, McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, VIC; A/Prof Brian Le, Director of Palliative Care, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre – The Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Cathy McDonnell, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Concord Centre for Palliative Care, Concord Hospital, NSW; Natalie Munro, Team Leader, PalAssist, QLD; Penelope Murphy, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Kate Reed, Nurse Practitioner Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia; Merrilyn Sim, Consumer. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title. We particularly acknowledge the input of Palliative Care Australia and their permission to quote from €œBrian’s Story €_x009d_ in A Journey Lived – a collection of personal stories from carers (2005).
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum
Need legal and financial assistance?
Pro bono services, financial and legal assistance, and no interest loans
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment
The emotional impact of advanced cancer
First reactions and ongoing effects after a diagnosis of advanced cancer
Caring for someone with advanced cancer
Discussing wishes and coping with grief
View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends