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Palliative care for young people

As with palliative care for adults, palliative care for children and teenagers focuses on maintaining quality of life by addressing physical, emotional, cultural, spiritual and social needs, and supporting the family. The palliative care team must also consider how the young person’s stage of development affects all these needs.

Because there may be uncertainty about the course of a child’s illness, elements of palliative care are often introduced early and can be combined with active treatment for the cancer.

Palliative care for young people involves health professionals with specialised skills in paediatrics (the care of children), as well as palliative care experts. Most children’s hospitals have some specialist paediatric palliative care services, which may provide care directly or advise the young person’s cancer care team.

Depending on their circumstances, young people can receive palliative care at home, in hospital or in a paediatric palliative care unit (hospice).

Support for young people

There are a number of organisations that specifically support young people with cancer and their families by providing palliative care, financial assistance, counselling, resources and respite care. These are listed below.

The hospital social worker can also provide support, and may know of other useful networks in your local community.

CanTeen – supports young people aged 12–25 affected by cancer and bereavement through an interactive online forum, counselling services, and resources on palliative care and end-of-life issues. Visit or call
1800 835 932.

Camp Quality – offers support for children aged 0–13 living with cancer, and their families, through each stage of the cancer experience, including palliative care and bereavement. Visit or call 1300 662 267.

Redkite – a charity that supports young people and their families through cancer by providing emotional guidance (including bereavement support), financial assistance and educational services. Visit or call
1800 733 548.

Youth Cancer Services – provide hospital-based cancer treatment and support services for young people aged 15–25. For more information and to find the Youth Cancer Service closest to you, visit

Palliative Care Australia – provides a detailed resource, A Family Companion, to help families and carers prepare for situations they may face during their child’s illness. You can download this resource from

This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed May 2019 by the following expert content reviewers: Prof Katherine Clark, Clinical Director, Palliative Care, Northern Sydney Local Health District Cancer & Palliative Care Network, and Conjoint Professor, Northern Clinical School, University of Sydney, NSW; Richard Austin, Social Worker, Specialist Palliative Care Service, TAS; Sondra Davoren, Manager, Treatment and Supportive Care, McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, VIC; A/Prof Brian Le, Director of Palliative Care, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre – The Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Cathy McDonnell, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Concord Centre for Palliative Care, Concord Hospital, NSW; Natalie Munro, Team Leader, PalAssist, QLD; Penelope Murphy, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Kate Reed, Nurse Practitioner Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia; Merrilyn Sim, Consumer.