An operation to remove a blockage in Jade Goody's bowel will not save her life but could make sure she is more comfortable during her final weeks.
The reality television star was said by her publicist Max Clifford to be in "awful pain" last night, which shattered her hopes of returning home today to her husband Jack and two sons Bobby, five, and Freddie, four.
Instead she is back at the Royal Marsden Hospital, in south west London, where doctors are looking for the most effective way to minimise the 27-year-old's suffering.
This type of care - known as palliative treatment - is designed to improve a person's quality of life rather than to cure an illness.
The charity Cancer Research UK's website www.cancerhelp.org.uk says: "In advanced cancer, palliative treatment may help someone to live longer and to live comfortably, even if they cannot be cured."
Painkillers, anti-sickness drugs, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, biological therapy and surgery can all be used to make a person's final weeks more comfortable.
Mr Clifford said yesterday that Goody had "a great deal of pain from her tummy".
Staff at St Clare Hospice, in Hastingwood, near Harlow, Essex, said a blockage in her bowel could be to blame and suggested surgery might relieve her pain.
A Cancer Research UK spokesman said: "The operation can relieve severe nausea and vomiting, and may give the person with cancer more time feeling well.
"The surgeon will remove as much of the cancer as necessary to relieve the blockage, even if the cancer has spread to another body organ, such as the liver."
This type of operation is known as "debulking" and can relieve pressure in the area, reducing pain.
A spokesman for St Clare Hospice was unable to comment on Goody's case but said palliative care was "about ensuring dignity and that they (the patient) are as comfortable as they can be and their symptoms are as managed as possible".