Palliative treatment

Medical treatment is an important part of palliative care. It aims to manage the physical and emotional symptoms of cancer without trying to cure the disease. Some examples of palliative medical treatment are:

  • radiotherapy to reduce pain if cancer has spread to the bones
  • chemotherapy or targeted therapy to stop the cancer growing into other organs
  • surgery to reduce tumours causing pain or other symptoms
  • medicines to control symptoms and relieve discomfort.

You have the right to say no to any treatment offered, but your medical team need to be confident that you understand the nature of the treatment proposed and the possible consequences of not having it. You do not have to accept treatments on an all-or-nothing basis – you can refuse some and accept others.

Treatments for advanced cancer can cause significant side effects, and some people choose not to have active treatment for the cancer but to focus on controlling their symptoms to reduce pain and discomfort.

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This information was last reviewed in April 2017
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