Palliative treatment for lung cancer
If the cancer is advanced when it is first diagnosed or comes back after treatment, your doctor will discuss palliative treatment for any symptoms caused by the cancer. They may refer you to a palliative care specialist.
Palliative treatment aims to manage symptoms without trying to cure the disease. It can be used at any stage of advanced lung cancer to improve quality of life and does not mean giving up hope. Rather, it is about living as fully and comfortably as possible.
Systemic treatment (chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy), radiation therapy and surgery may be used palliatively to slow the spread of cancer and control symptoms such as pain or breathlessness. If you are experiencing a build-up of fluid in the lungs, various procedures can drain the fluid and help prevent it building up again. See Managing symptoms for more details.
Palliative treatment is one aspect of palliative care, in which a team of health professionals aims to meet your physical, emotional, cultural, spiritual and social needs. The team also supports families and carers.
Video: What is palliative care?
Watch this video to see how palliative treatment aims to manage symptoms and improve people’s quality of life without trying to cure the disease.
Podcast for people affected by advanced cancer
A/Prof Nick Pavlakis, President, Australasian Lung Cancer Trials Group, President, Clinical Oncology Society of Australia, and Senior Staff Specialist, Department of Medical Oncology, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Dr Naveed Alam, Thoracic Surgeon, St Vincent’s Private Hospital Melbourne, VIC; Prof Kwun Fong, Thoracic and Sleep Physician and Director, UQ Thoracic Research Centre, The Prince Charles Hospital, and Professor of Medicine, The University of Queensland, QLD; Renae Grundy, Clinical Nurse Consultant – Lung, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; A/Prof Brian Le, Director, Palliative Care, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre – Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and The Royal Melbourne Hospital, and The University Of Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Margot Lehman, Senior Radiation Oncologist and Director, Radiation Oncology, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Susana Lloyd, Consumer; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Nicole Parkinson, Lung Cancer Support Nurse, Lung Foundation Australia.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment