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.

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

Palliative care may be provided in:

  • people’s homes – by Hospice at Home services, palliative care doctors and nurses, or Marie Curie nurses
  • hospices
  • hospitals – by hospital-based palliative care teams
  • care homes.

Not all services may be available everywhere. If you need more support speak to your GP, who can refer you to services.

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 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:

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

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 September 2019

To be reviewed September 2021