Palliative care for babies, children and teenagers focuses on maintaining quality of life and supporting the family. The palliative care team will also consider the young person’s stage of development, which will affect their understanding of illness and ability to participate in making decisions.
Palliative care for young people is provided by health professionals who specialise in paediatrics (the care of children), as well as palliative care experts. Most children’s hospitals have specialist paediatric palliative care services who can provide care directly or advise the cancer care team. Family members are considered part of the palliative care team.
Depending on the needs of the young person and their family, palliative care may be in the home, in hospital or, where available, in a children’s palliative care unit (hospice).
Talking to kids about cancer
Speaking with children, teenagers and young adults about cancer can feel overwhelming. As a parent, grandparent or carer, your first reaction may be to keep the news from them or to delay telling them. Even though it can be difficult, research shows that being open and honest helps children cope with the cancer diagnosis.
Support for young people
There are a number of organisations that specifically support young people with cancer and their families by providing palliative care, financial assistance, counselling, resources and respite care, including:
The hospital social worker can also provide support and may know of other useful networks in your local community. You can also call Cancer Council on 13 11 20.
Understanding Palliative Care
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Expert content reviewers:
Dr Cynthia Parr, Specialist in Palliative Care, HammondCare and Macquarie University Hospital, NSW; Dr Lisa Cuddeford, Clinical Lead, WA Paediatric Palliative Care Service, WA; Dr Laura Kirsten, Principal Clinical Psychologist, Nepean Cancer Care Centre, NSW; Penny Neller, Project Coordinator, National Palliative Care Projects, Australian Centre for Health Law Research, Queensland University of Technology, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; A/Prof Peter Poon, Director, Supportive and Palliative Care, Monash Health, and Adjunct Associate Professor, Monash University, VIC; Dr Kathy Pope, Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Kate Reed-Cox, Nurse Practitioner National Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia; Juliane Samara, Nurse Practitioner, Clare Holland House – Specialist Palliative Aged Care, Calvary Public Hospital, ACT; Annabelle Solomon, Consumer; Silvia Stickel, Consumer; Kaitlyn Thorne, Manager, PalAssist, Cancer Council Queensland; Kim Vu, Consumer; Rosie Whitford, Social Worker – Grief, Bereavement and Community Palliative Care, Prince of Wales Hospital, NSW.
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The information on this webpage has been adapted from Understanding Palliative Care - A guide for people with cancer, their families and friends (2021 edition). This webpage was last updated in November 2021.