Read about making treatment decisions when you have advanced cancer.
Deciding about treatment can be difficult when you have advanced cancer. Treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy can help to reduce symptoms and might make you feel better. But they also have side effects that can make you feel unwell for a while.
You need to understand:
- what treatment can do for you
- how it might affect your quality of life
- what side effects it has
Your doctor or specialist nurse can talk to you about the benefits and possible side effects. You can ask them questions.
You might also find it helps to talk things over with a close relative, a friend or a counsellor at the hospital.
Types of treatment
Treatment depends on:
- the size of the cancer and where it is in the body
- the treatment you have already had
- your general health
To shrink your cancer, slow its growth and relieve your symptoms your doctor might recommend:
- biological therapy
Your doctor might offer you a choice of treatments. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each treatment with them and ask how they can control any side effects. This helps you make the right decision for you.
You also need to think about the other factors involved in each treatment, such as:
- whether you need extra appointments
- if you’ll need more tests
- the distance you need to travel to and from hospital
You might need to make further choices as your situation changes. It helps to find out as much as possible each time.
You can stop radiotherapy or cancer drug treatments whenever you want to, if you find them too much to cope with.
If you decide not to have treatment
You can have medicines to help control symptoms such as sickness or pain if you decide not to have treatment such as hormone therapy or chemotherapy.
Your doctor or nurse will discuss with you what could help you. You can also ask them to refer you to a local symptom control team to give you support at home.