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Advanced cancer is the most common reason patients are referred to palliative care units around the world. For example, in Australia, patients with malignancy account for almost 80% of all referrals to palliative care units.[1]. In the vast majority of cases, once a cancer is metastatic it is no longer curable and will eventually lead to death. The time-frames behind this vary depending on the type of cancer, treatment undertaken and other patient factors such as other serious medical co-morbidities. The actual reason for a person's decline in health and death varies depending upon what parts of the body the cancer has spread to. A very common presentation of a patient in the last few weeks of life due to advanced cancer is gradual weight loss, worsening appetite, increasing fatigue over weeks leading the patient to spend most of his or her time in bed. One of the biggest fears many patients and family members have is that unbearable pain will develop as the cancer progresses and although this pain is often a symptom of advanced cancer, over 60% of patients with advanced cancer experience mild or no pain.[2]

Cancer Biology

Epidemiology in Palliative Care

Clinical Features and Symptoms


  1. PCOC. National Report on Patient Outcomes in Palliative Care in Australia: July - December 2013. Report 16.
  2. Van den Beuken-Van Everdingen et al. Update on Prevalence of Pain in Patients with Cancer: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2016 Jun; 51(6). 1070-1090.

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