Many people have never heard of palliative (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) care. Others think palliative care is the same as end-of-life care or hospice care. But that’s not the case.
Palliative care is a specialized field of medicine that provides patients with relief from the physical and emotional symptoms and side effects associated with an illness or its treatments. The sole focus of palliative care is improving quality of life. For this reason, you should know about palliative care, whether you have an early-stage cancer or are living with metastatic disease.
As you know, treating cancer requires a medical team: oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, and more. Integrating palliative care into your cancer care means adding a doctor, nurse, and social worker with specialized expertise in pain relief to your team. Over time, your palliative team may expand to include therapists, pharmacists, nutritionists, chaplains, and others who can help you have a better quality of life.
Your palliative specialists will focus on:
- decreasing symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, and nausea;
- reducing side effects like loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, depression, and anxiety;
- addressing your spiritual needs or concerns;
- managing your transportation and financial concerns;
- providing support for family, friends, and caregivers; and helping you and your caregivers understand and make decisions regarding your treatment options and goals.
If your doctor doesn’t mention palliative care, be sure to bring it up.
You can learn more about integrating palliative care into your cancer care from these organizations and websites: