Does palliative care mean end‑of‑life care?

Palliative care aims to provide quality care and quality of life for someone living with a life-limiting illness. It is about living for as long as possible in a way that is meaningful to you, within the constraints of your illness. It’s not simply about dying.

While some people may use palliative care services for only a few weeks or months, the number of people receiving palliative care for several years is increasing.

Because improved treatments can help stop or slow the spread of cancer and relieve side effects, cancer may be considered a chronic (long-lasting) disease. You can have palliative care while you are still having active treatment for the cancer. You do not need to wait until you have stopped active treatment or until the end of life.

This type of care can improve quality of life from the time of diagnosis. One reason that some people don’t access palliative care services early – or at all – is because they have the fear or misconception that it will mean they have given up hope or are going to die soon. This is certainly not the case for everyone referred to palliative care, nor does it mean that your doctor has given up hope.

The reality is that some people do die from cancer. As people draw closer to death, the end-of-life aspect of palliative care becomes important.

   − Julie

This information was last reviewed in April 2017
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