There are doctors and nurses throughout the country who specialise in this area, which is called palliative care or supportive care. They are based in hospitals, hospices, specialist palliative care units and pain clinics. There are also many home care teams of doctors and nurses who can visit you in your home. They can make sure that your symptoms are well controlled and that you have help and support.
We also have a section on advanced cancer that you may find helpful.
When you’re at home, your GP and district nurse will be responsible for your day-to-day care. In many areas of the country there are also specialist nurses called palliative care nurses. They can offer you support from when you’re diagnosed with cancer. They can visit you at home and support you and your family. They’re experienced in assessing and treating your symptoms. Many palliative care nurses are linked to the local hospice. Your GP can usually arrange for you to be seen by a specialist nurse at home.
Palliative care nurses are sometimes referred to as Macmillan nurses. However, many Macmillan professionals are nurses who have specialist knowledge about a particular type of cancer. You may see them when you’re at a clinic or in hospital.
Marie Curie nurses help to care for people who are no longer having active cancer treatment and want to stay in their own homes. They may be registered nurses or senior health assistants. Marie Curie nurses provide nursing care during the day and, more usually, overnight. The district nurse usually decides whether to request a Marie Curie nurse.
Our section caring for someone gives more detail about the support services available.
Many hospitals have a palliative care team to support the staff caring for you. The team is usually made up of nurses and doctors who specialise in symptom control (palliative care specialists). If you’re in hospital or visiting an outpatient clinic, your doctor or nurse can arrange for the palliative care team to visit you. Some hospitals have pain clinics for the management of chronic pain. A specialist doctor can offer a range of treatments to help control pain. Other specialists such as psychologists, nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists can also help with the management of pain. Your GP or hospital doctor can refer you to a pain clinic.
Care in hospices and specialist palliative care units
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Hospices and specialist palliative care units specialise in the physical, emotional, spiritual and social needs of people with cancer and other life-limiting illnesses. They can help anyone with cancer, not just those who are dying or seriously ill. The care is free. Some are run by independent charities or by Marie Curie Cancer Care (known as Marie Curie Hospices). Others are run by local NHS trusts. These units provide a variety of care:
Inpatient care, where you can be admitted for a few days or weeks to have your symptoms controlled. Short stays can also be organised to give your carers a break from care-giving (respite care). Some people may need inpatient care in a hospice when they are dying.
Day care can provide specialist symptom control. It may also offer the opportunity for physiotherapy, complementary therapy and carer support, and the chance to meet with others who may be in a similar situation. Day care can also give your family or carers some time for themselves.
Outpatient clinics, where people who are able to travel from home can get help from a palliative care specialist.
Your GP or hospital doctor can organise a referral for hospice support.
Other professionals who can help
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Physiotherapists can help you with breathing and mobility problems. They can offer expert advice about gentle exercise and relaxation techniques, and they can help you learn new ways of carrying out day-to-day activities that may be causing you difficulty.
Occupational therapists can help you find safe ways of completing tasks and activities at home, and prevent you from getting too tired or breathless. They may be able to supply you with simple but effective gadgets that can make everyday chores easier to manage.
A social worker can give you information about social services and other benefits you may be able to claim. For example, you may be entitled to Meals on Wheels, a home help or assistance with hospital fares.