Palliative care is an approach to caring for people with cancer and their family that focuses on improving their quality of life and not just about care at the end of life. This can be offered in a hospital, rest home, at home or by a hospice service.
Palliative care may be used during:
times when your illness is causing discomfort; for example, bothersome pain, shortness of breath or nausea and vomiting
periods when your thoughts and feelings are distressing
occasions when your illness may be having a big impact elsewhere in your life - maybe with your partner, children, family/whānau, work or perhaps financial affairs.
The Cancer Society has a booklet on advanced cancer for people with cancer and for carers of people with advanced cancer titled Advanced Cancer/Matepukupuku Maukaha: A guide for people with advanced cancer. To receive a copy, call the cancer information nurses on the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237), contact your local Cancer Society for a copy or view and download a copy from the Cancer Society’s website.
Cancer support groups offer support and information to people with cancer and their families. It can help to talk to others who have gone through the same experience. Support groups can also offer many practical suggestions and ways of coping. Ask your hospital or local Cancer Society for information on cancer support groups in your area.
Help may be available for transport and accommodation costs if you need to travel some distance to your medical and treatment appointments. Your treatment centre or local Cancer Society can advise you about what sort of help is available.
Financial help may be available through your local Work and Income office. Work and Income has pamphlets and information about financial assistance for people who are unable to work. Short-term financial help is available through the Sickness Benefit and longer-term help is provided through the Invalids Benefit. Extra help may be available; for example, accommodation supplements and assistance with medical bills. More information is available on the Ministry of Social Development’s website or by phoning 0800 559 009.
Nursing care is available at home through district nursing or your local hospital. Your doctor or hospital can arrange this.
You may be entitled to assistance with household tasks during your treatment. For information on what help is available, contact your hospital social worker or the District Nursing Service at your local hospital.
New Zealand’s Health and Disability Code states that everyone has the right to have an interpreter present during a medical consultation. Family or friends may assist if you and your doctor do not speak the same language, but you can also ask your doctor to provide an interpreter if using family members is inappropriate or not possible.
Your local Cancer Society provides confidential information and support.
The Cancer Information Helpline is a Cancer Society service where you can talk about your concerns and needs with trained nurses. Call your local Cancer Society and speak to supportive care services staff or phone the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237).
Local Cancer Society centres offer a range of support services for people with cancer and their families. These may include:
volunteer drivers providing transport to treatment
support and education groups
contact with other women who have had cancer of the uterus
the Look Good...Feel Better workshop. Contact your local Cancer Society about attending this workshop.
You may be interested in Cancer Connect NZ, which arranges telephone peer support calls for people living with cancer and their caregivers. Call the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237) for more information.
Cancer Chat is an online/support and information forum to join.
The range of services offered differs in each region so contact your local centre to find out what is available in your area. If you are having treatment at a private hospital ask your treatment team what services you may be eligible for.
Some people having chemotherapy don’t lose their hair while others may lose all their head and body hair. Whether this happens to you depends on what drugs you are given. Ask you cancer doctor if you are likely to lose your hair. The Cancer Society has an Information Sheet titled “Managing Hair Loss” that you can view on the Cancer Society’s website, by contacting your local Cancer Society for a copy or by ringing the cancer information nurses on the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237).
The government helps pay for the cost of a wig. You must get a certificate from your doctor that states you are entitled to a wig. Some people don’t bother with a wig. They stay bald or cover up with a scarf or a hat. What you do is up to you. There is no medical reason why you have to cover up your head. However, your scalp will be more sensitive to the sun than normal, so you should wear a hat or a high-protection sunscreen (SPF 30+) on your scalp when you’re in the sun.