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Care towards end of life

As you approach the end of your life, your care will focus on managing any symptoms of your pancreatic cancer, as well as supporting you emotionally and practically. It will aim to maintain the quality of your daily life, and help you carry on doing the things you enjoy for as long as possible.

What is palliative care?

If your pancreatic cancer can no longer be treated, you may hear the term palliative care. The aim of palliative care is to help you live as well as possible for as long as possible. It includes managing complex symptoms, including pain and psychological (emotional) symptoms such as depression and anxiety. It provides people with emotional, physical, practical and spiritual support to help them deal with pancreatic cancer that can’t be cured. It also supports family members.

Palliative care may be provided in:

Your GP and district nurse will provide some palliative care, and will arrange support from the specialist palliative care team when you need this. If you haven’t already been referred to the specialist palliative care team, ask your GP or district nurse to refer you, as they can provide a lot of support.

What is a specialist palliative care team?

Specialist palliative care teams vary, but may include palliative care doctors and nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dietitians and social workers.

There are specialist palliative care teams based in the community who can visit you at home. Sometimes these teams may be based at the local hospice. If you are in hospital, the hospital will also have a palliative care team.  

Not all services may be available everywhere. If you need more support speak to your GP. You can also speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line, who can explain how to access support.

“When we were finally given a palliative care nurse I was amazed at how much support she was able to give us, both as a couple and individually.”

What is a hospice?

Hospices provide specialist palliative care for patients and families. Services are free and vary between hospices, so not all hospices may provide all the services mentioned here. Services may include:

  • managing symptoms
  • inpatient care, where you stay at the hospice for a short time – for example, to get symptoms under control
  • outpatient care, where you go to the hospice for an appointment and then go home after treatment
  • ‘Hospice at home’ services, which provide hands on nursing care at home
  • emotional, spiritual and social support
  • support for families
  • practical and financial advice
  • complementary therapies, such as massage and aromatherapy, to help deal with symptoms.

You can ask your GP or district nurse what hospice services are available locally. You can also contact your local hospice to ask about their services. Hospice UK has details of hospices across the country.

Planning your care

It can be useful to think early on about how you want to be cared for in the future. This is because as you become less well, you may be less able to make decisions about your care or tell your doctors or nurses what you want. It can be difficult to think about your future care, but it can help you feel more in control. It also makes it easier for the people around you to follow your wishes. Read more about planning your care.

Questions to ask

  • Can you refer me to the specialist palliative care team?
  • What support is there for me to be cared for at home? How do I access this?
  • What palliative care services are available locally?
  • Who should I contact in an emergency, at night or at the weekend?
  • Where is the local hospice and what services do they provide?
  • Can you help me plan my future care?
  • Can I choose where I die and who is with me?

More information

  • Marie Curie  have information for people at the end of life and their families, including information about how to care for someone at home, and information about Marie Curie nurses and hospices.
  • Hospice UK  explain what hospice care is, and you can search for hospices near you.
  • NHS Choices  and NHS Inform  have more information about care at the end of life, including planning your care.
  • Macmillan Cancer Support  and Marie Curie  both have information about planning and arranging care, and sorting out your affairs and financial issues.
  • Compassion in Dying  provide information about planning your care. Their website, My decisions, can help you record your decisions about your care.
  • Healthtalk.org  shares people’s experiences as stories or videos. They have experiences of pancreatic cancer, including from people who have advanced pancreatic cancer talking about their care and planning for the end of life.

Read more about choosing where to receive care

Read more about planning your care

Read about symptoms towards the end of life and how these are managed

We have specific information for family and friends

Find organisations that can support you towards the end of life 

Information Standard

Published March 2018

Review date March 2020

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