Advanced cancer questions

1. My Dad's been told that his cancer is advanced. What does this mean and what support is available?

A.

I'm sorry to read that your Dad has advanced cancer. Being told your cancer is advanced can come as a big shock, so I'm sure this must be a difficult time for you and all the family.

Advanced cancer usually means a cancer has spread from where it began to other parts of the body. You may hear this called ‘metastatic cancer' or ‘secondary cancer'. Where it's most likely to spread will depend on the type of cancer your Dad has. But common places cancer spreads to are the bones, liver, lungs and brain.

Cancer can also be ‘locally advanced'. This means the cancer has grown through the organ where it began and into the surrounding body tissue.

When a cancer spreads it's much harder to treat. In some cases it may mean that the cancer is no longer curable. But this doesn't mean there won't be treatment to help control the cancer. Depending on the type of cancer, advanced cancer can be controlled for months and sometimes years. There's a section on our website about advanced cancer.

It may be helpful to talk to a cancer nurse who can listen to your story and link you to information and support. For example the cancer nurse may offer access to phone support and internet support groups as well as finding a local support group in your area. If you can't find one, call the Cancer Helpline on 13 11 20 and we'll look further for you. Once you've made contact with us over the phone, we invite you to receive a ‘call back' from the cancer nurse, who'll make a date to call you back and see how things are going.

If your Dad is well enough he may be interested in attending one of our support programs called ‘When cancer won't go away'. This program offers a safe environment for those with advanced cancer to share experiences and concerns.

As far as supporting your Dad yourself, I'm sure you're doing a lot by just being there. It can be exhausting to watch someone you love go through cancer and its treatment. So be sure to take care of yourself as well.

I wish you and your Dad all the very best.

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Updated: 17 Jan, 2012