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New resource explains what palliative care offers before misperceptions get in the way

The new resource provides information for people with metastatic breast cancer by focussing first on their needs.

For some people, the term ‘palliative care’ inspires gratitude and relief. For others, it inspires fear, particularly if they mistakenly believe that it signals giving up, can’t be received in conjunction with treatment, or is only for people who are about to die.

That great challenge is tackled head on by a new online resource, which provides information for people with metastatic breast cancer by focussing first on their needs.

The tool ‘Living Well with Metastatic Breast Cancer asks patients a short series of questions about their age, location, family, symptoms and concerns.

The first mention of palliative care then comes in form of a question: “Did you know that palliative care helps women like you with metastatic breast cancer live as fully and comfortably as possible while still receiving active treatment for the cancer?”.

This is followed by evidence-based support addressing each need the patient has identified and local palliative care support services.

The resource represents a joint effort between Palliative Care Australia (PCA) and Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA). It was developed with input from a focus group of five women living with metastatic breast cancer, which occurs when breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body.

BCNA CEO Christine Nolan said the resource introduces palliative care in a way that changes the common misperception that it is only for people right at the end of life.

“We want people to know that it is a much broader supportive care service that can offer practical, physical and emotional support at any time after a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis,” Ms Nolan said.

PCA CEO Liz Callaghan said the resource aimed to empower people living with metastatic breast cancer to make informed care choices, based on an accurate understanding of palliative care and its benefits.

“Women with metastatic breast cancer can benefit from early palliative care interventions. Research has shown that many women are reluctant to access palliative care feeling it signals that they are giving up on life. To the contrary, palliative care can assist people with metastatic breast cancer to live as well as possible, for as long as possible.”

About 3000 people will die from metastatic breast cancer in Australia this year.

The resource was developed with grant support from the Union for International Cancer Control through the Seedling Progress and Resources for the Cancer Community: Metastatic Breast Cancer Challenge initiative, supported by Pfizer.


  • How can you be so bias by limiting your article/organisation to breast cancer you should be ashamed, pulling at people's heart strings re breast cancer when so many people are in a palliative state and need the same help and support services

    - G Ellis
  • Thanks for your feedback and yes, many others could benefit from a resource like this too. Palliative Care Australia was grateful to receiving funding to develop this resource specifically for people with metastatic breast cancer and we are looking to expand it to cover other illnesses.

    - Heather Wiseman

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