Palliative care and supportive care

Palliative care and supportive care are available at any point during your treatment or care. They aim to help people who have pancreatic cancer that can’t be cured to live as well as possible for as long as possible.

The aim of palliative care is to help you live as well as possible for as long as possible. Supportive care provides similar services and is available in some hospitals. The palliative care and supportive care services you are referred to may vary, depending on what’s available in your area.

These services aren’t just for people at the end of their life. Palliative care and supportive care are available at any point during your treatment or care.

Palliative care and supportive care provide specialist care which aims to prevent and manage complex symptoms, including pain, and emotional symptoms, such as depression and anxiety. They also provide people with practical and spiritual support, and provide support to family members.

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. Read more about these professionals.

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“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 supportive care team?

Some hospitals have supportive care teams. Supportive care is similar to palliative care. It aims to see people at a very early stage in their cancer treatment to manage their symptoms. In some areas, supportive care teams can also provide this care to people who have finished their treatment, but are still dealing with symptoms such as pain.

Where can I receive this care?

Your GP or district nurse will provide some palliative care, and will arrange support from the specialist palliative care team if you need this. If you are in hospital, the hospital will also have a palliative care team.

Palliative care may be provided in:

  • your home – by Hospice at Home services, community-based palliative care teams, or Marie Curie nurses
  • hospices
  • hospitals – by hospital-based palliative care teams
  • care homes.

Not all services may be available everywhere. Speak to your GP if you need more support.

Speak to a nurse

Our specialist nurses on our free Support Line, can explain how to access support and what palliative care and supportive care involves.

Speak to our nurses
Specialist nurse Nicci

What is a hospice?

Hospices provide specialist palliative care. You may visit the hospice for an appointment (outpatient care), or for the full day to use their services before returning home. Or you may stay at the hospice for a short time, for example to get symptoms under control (inpatient care). Some hospices also have ‘Hospice at Home’ services, which provides nursing care at home.

Hospice are free, but the services each hospice offers can vary. Not all hospices may provide the services mentioned below. Check with your GP or district nurse what services are available locally, and if they can refer you to these services. You can also contact your local hospice or check on their website to find out about their services. Hospice UK has details of hospices across the country

Hospice services may include:

If you have been told that you only have a few months to live, you should be referred to a specialist palliative care team.

We have more information about accessing this care

Questions to ask your doctor or nurse

  • Would it help for me to see a specialist palliative care or supportive care team?
  • What support can they provide?
  • Can you refer me to the specialist palliative care team?
  • What palliative care services are available locally?
  • Where is the local hospice and what services do they provide?

Published April 2021

To be reviewed April 2024