Advance care planning

The process of advance care planning begins with a discussion about the person’s wishes for their future health care. Ideally, this conversation occurs early, when cancer is first diagnosed or even before. It does not mean that the person has given up or will die soon – many people review their wishes from time to time. Palliative Care Australia has developed a discussion starter resource to help people talk about the issues.

It is not unusual for a person’s wishes to change once they have been told the cancer is advanced. It is important that the person’s carer, close family members and health professionals understand how much treatment the person wants for the cancer, and what matters to them most when making treatment decisions. Palliative care teams are experienced with helping people through these difficult discussions about balancing the quality and length of life.

It can be confronting as a carer if the person you are caring for decides they do not want any more active treatment for the cancer. On the other hand, you may worry about the impact on their quality of life if they decide to keep pursuing active treatment. You may find it helpful to talk to the palliative care team about how you are feeling.

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Listen to podcasts on Cancer Affects the Carer Too and How to Help Someone with Cancer

Different laws

Each state and territory has different laws related to advance care planning. For more information about the legal documents involved in NSW, call Cancer Council on 13 11 20 or download the Getting your affairs in order fact sheet from this page.

If you have questions, you can also call the Advance Care Planning Advisory Service on 1300 208 582, or visit or

It is important to seek legal advice. Cancer Council’s Legal Referral Service can connect you with a lawyer and arrange free assistance for eligible clients. Call 13 11 20.

This information was last reviewed in September 2017.
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