Advanced cancer means the cancer has spread to other areas of the body. It might have come back after your original treatment. Unfortunately advanced cancers can't usually be cured.
The aim of treatment is to control the cancer and relieve symptoms. Your doctors and nurses will help you to make the most of life and feel as good as possible for as long as possible.
How you might feel
Finding out that your cancer can’t be cured is distressing and can be a shock. It’s common to feel uncertain and anxious. It's normal to not be able to think about anything else.
Lots of information and support is available to you and your family and friends. Some people find it helpful to find out more about their cancer and the treatments they might have. Many people find that knowing more about their situation can make it easier to cope.
Talk to your doctor or nurse to understand:
- what your diagnosis means
- what is likely to happen
- what treatment is available
- how treatment can help you
Talking about advanced cancer
Your friends and relatives might be able to support you and talk to you about your cancer. Sharing can help to increase trust and support between you and make it easier to plan ahead. But some families are scared of the emotions this could bring up. So they may not want to discuss it. They might worry that you won't be able to cope with your situation.
It can strain relationships if your family or friends don't want to talk. You can help your family and friends by letting them know you would like to discuss what’s happening and how you feel.
You might find it easier to talk to someone outside your own friends and family.
Counselling might help you find ways of coping with your feelings and emotions. You can call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Thinking about your priorities and planning what you want to do can help you to feel more in control. You might want to talk about how you want to spend your time and what is and isn’t important to you.
Some of your future plans might no longer be realistic. But you might get round to doing something you always wanted to do but weren’t able to make time for.
Feeling as well as you can
It is important that you feel as well as you possibly can. Tell your doctor or nurse about any symptoms you have so they can help to control them.
Symptom control nurses are specialist nurses who can work with you and your doctor to help control any symptoms. They can also help to improve your physical and emotional well being. They are sometimes called palliative care or home care nurses.
You can ask the hospital or your GP to refer you. Sometimes you or your relatives can make a direct referral to symptom control nurses.
Many symptom control nurses have counselling training and can help you and your carers work through some of your emotions. If you have physical difficulties that make it hard to cope at home, your specialist nurse or a district nurse can talk to you about what may help you.
You might have extra expenses due to the cancer. Your specialist nurse or GP can help you get grants for heating costs, holidays or household expenses related to your illness.
Ask to see a social worker. They can let you know which benefits or grants you can claim and help with the claiming process.
Who can help?
You can get emotional and practical support through your hospital, local hospice and GP practice. You can also get help from charities and support groups.
Towards the end of life
Some people might want to find out what is likely to happen in the last few weeks or days of life.
You might need to choose where you want to be looked after and who you want to care for you.