We understand that people with cancer are worried about coronavirus. Here is the latest guidance. We will update it regularly.

Ask a nurse

Do you have a question about cancer? One of our Cancer Information Nurse Specialists will aim to respond within 2 working days.

How long does my dad have left?

claire17xo
Posted by

About a month ago, we found out my dad has lung cancer. It has spread throughout his bones & he has three tumours on his lungs. He does not want to know how long he has left but I’m really struggling not knowing! I understand there is no definitive answer but I’d just like to know if anyone could give me some sort of estimate or an average expectancy? He has had some radiotherapy but took an awful reaction to it! 

thanks in advance 

Ellen M-Macmillan
Posted by

Hi ,

Thanks for getting in touch with us and welcome to our Online Community.

We’re sorry to read about your dad’s diagnosis and the reaction that he took to his radiotherapy.

Wanting to know how long someone we love may live for is a question that we often get asked but it’s the one question that we find difficult to answer.

This is because everyone is different and their cancer and how it behaves is unique to them. Even the most experienced cancer doctors can find it hard to answer this question. But they can give you an “average figure” based on their experience of looking after patients.

Cancer research UK has general information about survival that can be helpful to look at, but it’s important to remember that these are “average figures” Some people live longer than expected whilst others may not live as long.

If your dad gives you permission, you can ask him if you could speak to his GP/ specialist nurse to help you to get a better understanding of what to expect.

It’s understandable why your dad doesn’t want to know the answer to that question, as he may be afraid of what the doctors may say. Somepeople do find it easier to cope if they only know what they need to know. Hearing that they may only have a short time to live may cause them to feel anxious and worry. Whilst others want to have a rough idea so that they can plan what they would like to do whilst they are able. Everyone is different, there is no right or wrong way to deal with the situation that they are in.

However, it can make things more upsetting and cause anxiety for family members who feel they need to know so that they can start to prepare themselves.

It can be difficult for you to know what to say, and worry about upsetting your dad that’s understandable. Our website has these tips that can help you to talk to your dad about how you’re feeling and to help you to listen to what he is telling you.

You don’t mention whether your dad is getting support at home from anyone. If not, you can talk to him about the support that is available for him and with his permission you could speak to his GP about him getting a referral.

Talking to others going through a similar experience can be helpful to do. We have a group who supports each other when they are looking after someone whose cancer can’t be cured that can be helpful to join. There is nothing quite like the support that you can get from others who know what it’s like.

It can help to talk to one of our nurses on our Support Line about how you’re feeling. Our lines are open every day from 8am till 8pm you can call us on 0808-808-0000. We would be more than happy to take your call.

Best wishes and take care.

Ellen-Cancer Information Nurse Specialist.