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When a person has had many different treatments and the cancer has not been cured, over time the cancer tends to resist all treatment. At this time you may have to weigh the possible benefits of a new treatment against the downsides, like treatment side effects and clinic visits.

This is likely to be the hardest time in your battle with cancer, when you have tried everything within reason and it’s just not working anymore. Your doctor might offer you a new treatment, but you will need to talk about how likely the treatment is to improve your health or change your outlook for survival.

Palliative care

No matter what you decide to do, it is important for you to feel as good as possible. Make sure you are asking for and getting treatment for pain, nausea, or any other problems you may have. This type of treatment is called palliative treatment. It helps relieve symptoms but is not meant to cure the cancer.

Hospice care

At some point you might need to think about hospice care. Your cancer may be causing symptoms or problems that need to be treated. Hospice focuses on your comfort. Most of the time, hospice care is given at home. While getting hospice care often means the end of treatments such as chemo and radiation, having hospice care doesn’t mean you can’t have treatment for the problems caused by the cancer or other health issues. It just means that the purpose of your care is to help you live life as fully as possible and to feel as well as you can. You can learn more about this in Hospice Care.

Staying hopeful is important, too. Your hope for a cure may not be as bright, but there is still hope for good times with family and friends – times that are filled with joy and meaning. Pausing at this time in your cancer treatment gives you a chance to focus on the most important things in your life. Now is the time to do some things you’ve always wanted to do and to stop doing the things you no longer want to do. Though the cancer may be beyond your control, there are still choices you can make.

You can learn more about the changes that occur when treatment stops working, and about planning ahead for yourself and your family, in Advance Directives and Nearing the End of Life.

Last Medical Review: 05/01/2015
Last Revised: 02/01/2016