Advanced cancer- planning ahead for legal and practical matters

You can live for many years with advanced cancer and most people hope that this will be the case for them. But it can be hard to think about what might happen in the future when you have a diagnosis of advanced cancer. It might make you feel worried, scared or upset to think about the end of your life.
Many people find it puts their mind at rest to have medical plans in place and sort out legal and practical matters, even though they still hope to live for a long time. Planning ahead is useful for everyone, whether they have an illness or not.
Planning ahead might include:
  • Thinking about how you feel about different types of medical treatment, including if you want to stop treatment at any stage or carry on for as long as possible.
  • Writing an advance care directive. This is where you can write down your wishes about your medical care. Doctors can use this if you are not well enough to say what you want.


  • Picking someone to make medical decisions for you if you are not well enough (this person is called your ‘patient-designated healthcare representative’).


  • Making a will. 


  • Thinking about any preferences you have about the end of your life, such as whether you prefer to stay at home, if possible, or if you think you would like to stay in a hospital or hospice.


  • Talking about what you want to your family, friends, carers and healthcare providers.


Who can help me plan?

Think Ahead is a booklet to help you plan, where you can fill in your personal, medical, financial and legal information and preferences. See the Useful resources below for more information on Think Ahead and sources of help with planning ahead. You could also speak to the medical social worker at the hospital. 
To talk to a cancer nurse in confidence about any aspect of planning ahead or about advanced cancer call our Cancer Nurseline on Freephone 1800 200 700 or visit a Daffodil Centre. 

Useful resources for planning ahead

Think Ahead  

A planning booklet with easy-to-read forms to fill in to record your personal, medical, financial and legal information and preferences. Published by the Forum on End of Life in Ireland.

Think ahead covers:
  • Personal information 
  • Care preferences – How you would like to be cared for, who should be included in discussions about your care, religious and cultural wishes, living wills, life-sustaining treatment
  • Legal matters – Making a will, giving power of attorney
  • Financial matters – Bank accounts, pension, life insurance
  • After death 

Thinking Ahead - Money Matters and Serious Illness

Helpful guide to financial matters for people with a serious illness. Published by the Money Advice and Budgeting Service

Covers making a will, giving power of attorney, and dealing with bank accounts

Useful contacts (external links)

Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) – Financial advice
Helpline: 076 1072000 
Citizens Information Service – Information on legal and financial matters 
Helpline: 1890 777121
FLAC – Free basic legal advice, legal information guides, website and helpline
Lo-Call: 1890 350 250
Think Ahead – Information and resources for anyone who wants to make medical, financial and legal plans for the end of their life
Date Last Reviewed: 
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Date Last Revised: 
Tuesday, December 15, 2015