Palliative care is a holistic approach that helps ease the suffering of cancer patients and cancer survivors. Despite popular belief, palliative care is not just for patients with untreatable or terminal cancer. The goal is to provide the best possible quality of life at every stage of treatment, starting at diagnosis. Palliative care is also known as supportive care or symptom control.
Palliative care can include:
- Management of pain, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite and other treatment-related symptoms
- Treatment of depression and anxiety
- End of life or hospice care
End of Life Care
If the cancer can no longer be treated, the focus shifts to providing end-of-life care. Palliative care specialists can help determine your needs and create a plan to address them.
End-of-life planning should include:
Patient comfort: Treat symptoms such as pain, fatigue, breathing difficulties and other problems.
Advance care planning: Decisions about wills, funeral arrangements and other details should be discussed with family members. Your palliative care team can help with advance care planning, including living wills and medical power of attorney.
Deciding where and how care will be provided. The palliative care team can help you decide whether to begin hospice care. Hospice care can be provided at home, in the hospital, in assisted-care communities or nursing homes. Some hospice organizations have facilities where patients can stay for a short time for treatment of uncontrolled symptoms.
Eligibility for hospice services requires a doctor’s certification that the patient’s life expectancy is six months or less.