Palliative and end-of-life care
You may reach a stage where your doctors tell you that there are no more treatments available to control the cancer.
It can be very upsetting and shocking to be told that your illness can’t be cured, and you may need help and support to cope with this news.
Although this can be a particularly difficult time, there is much that can be done to maintain your quality of life for as long as possible, and control any symptoms that occur.
You may find it helpful to read our information about coping with advanced cancer and end of life.
One of the important decisions that you may need to make if you know you’re not going to get better is, ‘Where do I want to live and be cared for?’
If you don't have family, friends or a carer who are able to look after you, there are services that can help. Your GP can arrange some of them for you, or you can get more information about these services by calling the Macmillan Support Line.
Palliative care nurses specialise in controlling symptoms and supporting people with cancer. They can visit you at home. Your healthcare team and support from social services should help you to stay at home if you wish. However, if you or the person looking after you are no longer able to cope at home, there are other services available.
The person looking after you may like to read our information about caring for someone with advanced cancer.
Residential and nursing homes
Residential and nursing homes can offer short-stay or long-stay care. Your GP, district nurse or social worker can arrange this for you. These homes charge a fee, although you can sometimes get this paid for you if you have little or no savings.
Lists of local registered care homes, and details of registered nursing homes, are available from your local social services department and your area health authority. You can get further information about finding a nursing home from Age UK and the Elderly Accommodation Council.
Hospices specialise in the control of pain and other symptoms. Many people affected by cancer like to be looked after at home, but you may be more comfortable being looked after in a hospice.
It’s quite common for someone to go into a hospice for a short time so that their symptoms can be closely monitored and brought under control, before returning home.
Hospices are smaller and quieter than hospitals and often work at a much gentler pace. Many have kitchens, sitting rooms and accommodation for relatives, and maybe even a bar. Accommodation and care in a hospice is always free of charge.
You can find out more about your local hospice from your GP or by contacting Help the Hospices. Age UK produces a range of leaflets about housing issues that you may find helpful.
Watch Tracy's story
Tracy shares her experiences of how hospice care helped her and her family.
Legal and financial affairs
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If you have been told that you won’t recover from your cancer, there are steps you can take in advance to make sure your legal and financial affairs are looked after.
Our information about sorting out your affairs discusses making arrangements such as setting up power of attorney, writing a will and inheritance matters. You can also speak to our Financial Guidance team for free.
Questions about palliative and end-of-life care
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You can download this table of questions you may have about palliative and end-of-life care [PDF, 146kb]. The table also suggests who may be able to answer each question.