Medical treatment is a key part of palliative care. It aims to manage the symptoms of cancer without trying to cure the disease. The treatment you are offered will depend on your individual needs, what type of cancer you have, how far it has spread, your symptoms, and the support you have. Some examples of palliative treatment include:
- radiation therapy to reduce pain (e.g. if cancer has spread to the bones, or a tumour is pressing on nerves or organs)
- 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.
These are some common cancer treatments that can be used palliatively. Let your palliative care team know about any side effects you may have so they can be managed.
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You have the right to say no to any treatment recommended, but your medical team need to be confident that you understand what you’ve been offered and how not having the treatment may affect your prognosis.
You do not have to accept treatments on an all-or-nothing basis – you can refuse some and accept others. Treatments 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. You may want to discuss your decision with the treatment team, GP, family and friends, or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
Podcast: Treatment Options for Advanced Cancer
Dr Cynthia Parr, Specialist in Palliative Care, HammondCare and Macquarie University Hospital, NSW; Dr Lisa Cuddeford, Clinical Lead, WA Paediatric Palliative Care Service, WA; Dr Laura Kirsten, Principal Clinical Psychologist, Nepean Cancer Care Centre, NSW; Penny Neller, Project Coordinator, National Palliative Care Projects, Australian Centre for Health Law Research, Queensland University of Technology, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; A/Prof Peter Poon, Director, Supportive and Palliative Care, Monash Health, and Adjunct Associate Professor, Monash University, VIC; Dr Kathy Pope, Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Kate Reed-Cox, Nurse Practitioner National Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia; Juliane Samara, Nurse Practitioner, Clare Holland House – Specialist Palliative Aged Care, Calvary Public Hospital, ACT; Annabelle Solomon, Consumer; Silvia Stickel, Consumer; Kaitlyn Thorne, Manager, PalAssist, Cancer Council Queensland; Kim Vu, Consumer; Rosie Whitford, Social Worker – Grief, Bereavement and Community Palliative Care, Prince of Wales Hospital, NSW.
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