Can I still have cancer treatment?

You can still have active treatment to shrink or stop the cancer growing while receiving palliative care. The palliative care team will work with your cancer specialists to manage side effects from treatment and help maintain your quality of life.

Cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy and radiation therapy may also be used as part of palliative treatment. In this case, the aim is not to control the cancer but to relieve symptoms.

Finding hope

Some people avoid palliative care because they hope that a cure will be found for their cancer. However, palliative care does not mean giving up hope. You may find that you focus your hopes on the things that are most important to you, e.g. feeling valued, having meaningful relationships or receiving effective pain relief.

People can have palliative care for several months or years, sometimes alongside active treatment for the cancer. During this time, you can continue to enjoy many aspects of your life.

Some people with advanced cancer take pleasure in completing projects, spending time with friends, or exploring new hobbies. Others find that recording their feelings through a creative activity, such as writing or art, helps them to make sense of their situation.

As the disease progresses, your goals may change. For example, you might hope to live as comfortably as you can for as long as possible or you may have some unfinished business to complete. Palliative care can help you achieve this.

Sexuality and palliative care

People with advanced cancer usually experience major physical and psychological changes. These can have an enormous impact on how they feel sexually, but do not mean that intimacy needs to end.

We are all sexual beings, and intimacy can provide comfort and maintain connection. Even if sexual intercourse is no longer possible or desired, you may gain physical closeness through cuddling, stroking or massage.

Talk with your partner about your feelings and concerns about the sexual changes in your relationship, and ways to maintain intimacy.

If you have concerns about sexual intimacy, talk to your GP, nurse or therapist. You can also call Cancer Council 13 11 20 and ask for a free copy of the Sexuality, Intimacy and Cancer booklet, or download a digital copy from this page.

This information was last reviewed in April 2017
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