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Advanced Cancer

You may have just been diagnosed with advanced cancer. Or perhaps you're struggling with the recurrence of cancer. Many people say when they heard the news they felt like they were in shock and couldn't hear anything else. Having advanced cancer can bring anxiety and uncertainty to your life. But remember that you’re still in control of your choices and actions. You get to choose how to move forward with your care.

Some people with advanced cancer can respond well to different treatments and continue to live for months or years. But others are at a point where there is no treatment available or their cancer can no longer be controlled. This is also called end-stage cancer or terminal cancer. (Sometimes terminal cancer is called metastatic cancer, but they aren't always the same thing. To learn more, see Metastatic Cancer: When Cancer Spreads.)

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. You will learn more about ways you can help yourself and perhaps ease some of your concerns. 

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

If you are 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 

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

Talking about Advanced Cancer

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

Coping with Your Feelings

Many people with advanced cancer experience similar feelings. You will see that you are not alone.

Planning for Advanced Cancer

Careful planning can reduce burdens your family may face later. Planning may include financial and legal issues, but it can also be a way of looking for meaning and celebrating your life.

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.