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Advanced Cancer

Advanced cancer is a broadly used term that can mean different things. Often health care providers use it for cancer that is unlikely to be cured. However, some advanced cancers can be controlled for many years with treatment and, in some cases, cured. Those that cannot be controlled with treatment are often called end-stage cancer or terminal cancer. Advanced cancer may also be used to describe cancers that have spread to nearby tissues or elsewhere in the body. 

The following sections are specific to those with end-stage cancer. They may help you deal with the many changes that come with this diagnosis. Learn more about ways you can help yourself and perhaps ease some of your concerns.

If you're a young adult with end-stage cancer you may find this page helpful: Young People Facing End-of-Life Care Decisions.

If you're a parent whose child has cancer, this guide, Children with Cancer: A Guide for Parents has a chapter on end-of-life care and ways to help your child.

Choices for Care When Treatment May Not Be an Option 

People with cancer have different goals for their care. Review the choices you can make for your medical care once you learn you have advanced cancer.

Talking to Others about Your Advanced Cancer

Learn about ways to talk to your doctor and loved ones, and how to receive support.

Coping with Your Feelings with Advanced Cancer

Many people with advanced cancer experience a range of emotions. You will see that you are not alone.

Making Future Plans with Advanced Cancer

Careful planning can reduce burdens your family may face later. Planning may include financial and legal issues, organizing records for loved ones, and completing advance directives. 

Finding Purpose and Meaning with Advanced Cancer

Having advanced cancer often causes people to look more deeply for their purpose in life. This may include exploring their spirituality, reflecting on their life, and looking at ways to create a legacy. 

Advanced Cancer and Caregivers

If you’re a caregiver, you may be tired and worried as you cope with your loved one’s cancer. This section addresses how caring for someone with advanced cancer brings new challenges and concerns.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Advanced Cancer

If you learn that you have advanced cancer, you will have choices to make about your care and the next steps you should take. For many, it’s hard to know what questions to ask about what these steps should be. This section may guide you in your talks with your doctor.