Everyone with cancer hopes that treatment will cure their cancer. Or they hope that their cancer can be controlled. Everyone hopes for a return to a normal life.
But sometimes the cancer continues to grow. Treatment may not help. Or the cancer spreads to other organs. Side effects may become too hard to live with.
At some point you may need to decide whether you want to keep trying to cure the cancer.
If you decide to stop trying to cure the cancer, it doesn't mean an end to treatment. You can still receive treatment, but its focus will change.
You may receive medicine and other treatment to relieve pain, let you do activities you enjoy, and prolong your life. When you focus on pain and symptom relief instead of a cure, you still see your doctor and get excellent care. And if your health changes or new treatments become available, you can change your mind and try again to cure the cancer.
You will make this decision along with your doctor. He or she can tell you if continued treatment is likely to work and what options you have. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons of any new treatment. Some treatments may make you feel worse than the disease itself. In some cases, you may be better off trying to control your symptoms and not have treatment.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Think about hospice palliative care if your cancer can't be cured and you have no more than 6 months to live. Hospice palliative care focuses on your symptoms. It provides medical treatment, emotional help, and spiritual support. It also helps family members care for a dying loved one.
You don't need to be confined to a bed or in a hospital to benefit from hospice palliative care. You may still be active.
Your hospice palliative care team will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can get care in your own home or in a hospice palliative care centre. Some hospice palliative care services also go to nursing homes or hospitals.
Hospice palliative care can:
End-of-life planning is a way to make sure that your wishes are met. It will make it easier for your loved ones. It also may ease your mind and make your final days more meaningful.
Talk to your family about your wishes so they are not surprised. Advance care plans are papers telling people what kind of medical care you do and don't want. You don't need a lawyer to prepare these papers. Make sure your doctor has a copy of these on file, and give a copy to a family member or close friend. You can change these instructions when you want to.
End-of-life planning can include:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:
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Current as of: July 26, 2016
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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