Some people with advanced cancer want to have an idea of how long they might live (prognosis).

Some people with advanced cancer want to have an idea of how long they might live (prognosis). Others prefer to focus on their quality of life and choose to never ask this question.

Will my doctor know how long I might live for?

Your doctors cannot be certain about what will happen to an individual person or how long you might live. They may not be able to answer your questions fully. But they can usually give you an idea based on the type of cancer and your situation. Cancer affects people differently, and it can be hard to say how quickly it might progress.

Some people may have times when the cancer is stable and is not causing many problems. Some will live with their advanced cancer for many months and sometimes years. But for others, the cancer develops more quickly and they will have less time.

Different things will affect how long you might live. For example, it may depend on how the cancer responds to treatment and how quickly it grows. You may need to talk with your cancer doctor again about what the best treatment is and if it needs to be changed.

Your healthcare team and your family and friends may wait for you to talk about how long you might live. Or they may talk about it straight away. If you are not comfortable talking about it, it is okay to say that. It is important to do what feels best for you.

What if my family or friends want to know more than I do?

Sometimes your family and friends may want more information than you do. If you are happy for them to learn about your situation in more detail, tell your cancer doctor or nurse. You need to tell them:

  • who you are happy for them to talk to about your situation
  • that you agree to them talking to your family or friends without you being there.

We have more information about talking about cancer.