Some people like to know as much as possible before deciding on any course of treatment. You can talk to your doctors and nurses about what treatments may be suitable, taking into account your own preferences and how treatment may affect you. This will help you decide on the best course of treatment together.
You may be offered surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapies, targeted therapies or a combination of treatments. The treatment that’s appropriate for you will depend on the type of cancer and where it is in your body.
The aim of treatment for advanced cancer is usually to try to control the cancer and help you live longer. It may also help improve your symptoms and quality of life. Controlling the cancer might mean shrinking the size of the tumour or stopping it from growing for a while.
Sometimes you may need to have a few treatments before you and your doctor can decide whether to continue with a full course. For example, if you’re having chemotherapy to control or shrink the cancer, you may have a scan after two or three treatment cycles. This gives you and your doctors more information about how helpful this particular treatment is. You can carry on with the course of treatment if the scan results show it’s working. If the results show the treatment isn’t helping, you and your doctor can talk about other treatment options.
However, there may be a time when the treatment has little effect on the cancer, and you may get the side effects of the treatment without any of the benefits. Making treatment decisions in these circumstances is always difficult, and you may want to talk about it carefully with your cancer specialist (oncologist), specialist nurse and family. If you decide not to have treatment, you will be given supportive (palliative) care, with medicines to control any symptoms.
You may be given general medicines to control pain or feeling sick (nausea). You might also be given cancer treatments to ease symptoms. For example, radiotherapy can help with pain as well as being a cancer treatment. If you choose not to have any cancer treatments, you’ll still be offered palliative care, such as painkillers.