Palliative and end of life care

Often, because the symptoms of pancreatic cancer can be vague, the disease is difficult to diagnose. Therefore, your tumour may have spread to nearby organs and blood vessels (locally advanced) or to distant organs (metastatic) and it is not possible to operate and remove the disease. It is important to realise that this does not necessarily mean that you are dying immediately. It means instead that treatment will focus on your quality of life and managing your symptoms.

You may have told that you have advanced pancreatic cancer, this means that your cancer cannot be cured and will likely lead to your death.

If you or someone you care for is diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer it can be a frightening and bewildering time. This section of the website aims to describe the treatments and care you may receive with advanced pancreatic cancer. It explains palliative care and advanced care planning as well as maximising quality of life.

What is palliative care?

It is likely that you have heard the term palliative care in relation to your treatment. Palliative care is different to end of life care. It is providing the treatment you need to manage your symptoms and give you the best possible quality of life. Palliative care acknowledges that death is a part of life and a natural process. It does not aim to speed up or slow down your death, instead it acts to support you and the people who care about you throughout your disease.

Palliative care can be provided wherever you are and by a number of different professionals. Some doctors and nurses specialise in palliative care, whereas for people like your GP or any carers you may have it is part of their everyday job.

You can have palliative care alongside other treatments and with your current medical team. Palliative care aims to support you with any physical, emotional, social, relationship issues that arise over the course of your illness.

What is end of life care?

End of life care is palliative care for when someone is approaching the end of their life. It focuses specifically on making sure this time is comfortable and meets your wishes.

Palliative and end of life care can help you make decisions about the level of treatment you receive, the places where you receive treatment and what your priorities are for your care.

The idea of being at or moving towards the end of your life can be a frightening and lonely time. Some people want to know as much as possible about what to expect and some people prefer to leave things be. It depends on who you are and what your beliefs are, but this booklet can help you to understand what to expect from palliative and end of life care. It also exists to reassure you that you are not alone, there are many people and services available with the right experience to help.