When treatment to control the cancer isn’t an option

For some people diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer, it may not be possible to have treatment to control the cancer. Some people decide not to have treatment for different reasons. There is medical, emotional and practical support available.

There may be different reasons why you can’t have treatment for your cancer, and it will depend on your situation. For example, you might not be physically well enough for treatments like chemotherapy.

Being told that you can’t have any treatment to control your cancer can be a shock for you and those close to you. You may have a range of emotions, but there is support available.

If you can’t have treatment to control your cancer, you will still receive care from hospital or community teams. Community teams may include your GP, Macmillan nurses, a hospice team or district nurses. They will assess your symptoms and provide treatments to help with these. They can also help you get care and support at home.

Get support

Being told you can’t have treatment to control your cancer may be upsetting. You can speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line to talk through how you are feeling. They can also help with questions about symptoms and the support you can get.

Find out more about our specialist nurses
Specialist nurse Dianne

What medical care can I have?

You will still be able to have treatments to help with any symptoms of the cancer. This might include:

Specialist palliative care

If you can’t have treatment to control the cancer, you may be referred to a specialist palliative care team. They aim to help you can live as long and as comfortably as possible. They can help manage symptoms, as well as supporting you and your family. If you haven’t seen a palliative care team, ask your GP to refer you.

Thinking about your future care

If you have been told that you can’t have treatment to control the cancer, you may want to think about your future care. This might include what care you would or wouldn’t want, and where you would like to be cared for. This is called advance care planning. This can be difficult to do, but it may help you feel more prepared and in control.

Knowing what to expect

Sometimes pancreatic cancer can grow and spread quickly. You may want to know more about what to expect in the future. You can talk to your team at the hospital or your palliative care team. We also have information and support available if you want to find out more.

You can speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line. They can explain what to expect, and how to get the support you need.

“Knowing what to expect at the end would have made things a bit less stressful.”

If you don’t want to have treatment

Some people decide they don’t want to have any treatment for the cancer. This can be for lots of different reasons, and will be a very personal decision to you. You can still have palliative care to control any symptoms.

If you can, take some time to think this over and speak to your medical team, and your family and friends. Macmillan Cancer Support has more information about making treatment decisions when you have advanced cancer.

Questions to ask your doctor or nurse


What help can I get with managing my symptoms?

How can I see a palliative care specialist?

What support can a palliative care specialist provide?

What support can I get at home?

What emotional and practical support can I get?

What issues may I face going forwards?

 

“Make the most of times when you feel well. Seeing friends, family, trips away. We even had 2 trips to Greece (with careful planning). After the inoperable diagnosis, these times kept us going.”

Published November 2022 

To be reviewed November 2025