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Chronic cancer

Cancer cannot always be cured permanently, but the spread of the disease can be halted or slowed. This is when cancer becomes chronic. Chronic cancer may progress very slowly or remain unchanged.

With the right medication and follow-up, a person with incurable cancer may live for years or even decades.

If the cancer cannot be cured you can be transferred from curative treatment to palliative treatment. Treatment for chronic cancer depends on the type of cancer. Often the cancer is kept in check with cytostatic drugs, hormone therapies, or other anti-cancer drugs, such as the new targeted therapy drugs. If the cancer has spread widely, it may also need radiotherapy.

With cancer that has spread (metastatic cancer), it is very important to weigh up the pros and cons of treatment, because treatment is often long-term and cancer that has spread may cause a general deterioration in your condition. The point of treatment is not to eliminate tumours but to halt the progress of the disease and alleviate its symptoms. Follow-up care usually takes place at 3 – 6 month intervals.

If you have chronic cancer, you may suffer from cancer pain, fatigue, nausea as well as the side effects often associated with treatment. But you will usually be able to live a normal life. If the cancer progresses, you will need symptomatic treatment and radiotherapy.

Terminal care

Approaching death

Chronic cancer is often a psychological strain, both for yourself and your loved ones. It is important to seek assistance from nursing staff or the CSF’s associations. Peer support can also help.

Cancer society’s peer support



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Suomen Syöpäpotilaat ry. Selviytyjän matkaopas. Helsinki, 2014.

Suomen Syöpäpotilaat ry. Syöpäpotilaan kivun hoito. Helsinki, 2015.