Palliative care

Palliative care

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 enhance your quality of life and make the time you have as valuable as it can be for you and your family. Palliative care may be beneficial for people at any stage of advanced cancer – it is not just for end of life.

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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.

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The role of palliative care

Palliative care helps people with advanced cancer to live as fully and as comfortably as possible. The role of palliative care is to:

  • identify and help you manage your physical, practical, emotional, spiritual and social needs
  • help you achieve the best quality of life that you can for as long as possible
  • help you feel in control of your situation and make decisions about your treatment and ongoing care
  • provide support to families and carers.

This type of care can improve quality of life from the time of diagnosis, and can be given alongside other cancer treatments.

Palliative care involves a range of services offered by medical, nursing and allied health professionals, as well as volunteers and carers. This is called a multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach.

Your care may be coordinated by your general practitioner (GP) or community nurse, or by the specialist palliative care team in your area. It may be provided in or out of the home.

Palliative care providers

Where possible, you and your family can choose where you want to receive palliative care. This may be:

  • at home (with support from community palliative care services and your GP)
  • at a specialist palliative care unit (sometimes called a hospice)
  • in a hospital
  • in a residential aged care facility.

Specialist palliative care services see people with the most complex needs, but can also provide advice to other health care professionals. These services can be accessed through:

  • many public and private hospitals (either as an inpatient or through an outpatient clinic)
  • palliative care units (hospices)
  • community-based specialist services.

If you think you need specialist palliative care, talk to your GP or oncologist about a referral to the service in your area.

Palliative care services

Services will be tailored to your individual needs, but may include:

  • relief of pain and other symptoms (e.g. nausea, vomiting)
  • equipment to aid care at home, such as wheelchairs or special beds
  • assistance for families to talk about sensitive or complex issues
  • links to other services such as home help and financial support
  • support for people to meet cultural obligations
  • counselling and grief support
  • support for emotional, social and spiritual concerns
  • referrals to respite care services.
Services offered in each state and territory vary. To find out what is available in your area, speak to your health care providers, contact your local palliative care organisation, use the directory of services at or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

What is Palliative Care?

Watch this video to see how palliative treatment aims to manage symptoms and improve people’s quality of life without trying to cure the disease.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on palliative care.

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit:


To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit:

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit:

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in April 2017
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