Looking ahead

This section looks at what lies ahead after you are diagnosed with advanced cancer, and the options that are available for you moving forward.

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A prognosis is the expected outcome of someone’s disease. Some people want to know whether and when they will die from cancer; others don’t wish to know. If you are referred to palliative care, it does usually mean that at some stage you may die from the cancer.

No-one can tell you exactly when you are going to die. Your doctors may be able to give a general indication of your life expectancy, based on an average patient, but everyone is unique and responds differently to different kinds of care. If you ask for an estimate of the time you have left to live, your doctor will probably talk about your remaining life span in terms of days to weeks, weeks to months, or months to many months. The actual time could be shorter or longer.

Some families and carers want to know the prognosis even when you don’t. Let the team know your preferences and whether they can talk to your family or carer when you’re not there.

Dealing with death is difficult and confronting for most people and their families, whatever their cultural background or religious beliefs. Talking over any fears, worries, guilt or other emotions you are experiencing may help you come to terms with your situation.

Feeling low or depressed is common after a diagnosis of advanced cancer. Consider sharing your thoughts with family and friends or speaking confidentially to a trained counsellor, social worker, psychologist or spiritual adviser.

You can also call 13 11 20 and ask for the Emotions and Cancer and Facing End of Life booklets, or download digital copies from this page.

This information was last reviewed in April 2017
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Cancer information

Key questions about advanced cancer
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End of life
Information for people who have been told that the end of life is near

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