Palliative Care

A cancer diagnosis can be a difficult thing to wrap your head around, and cancer treatment may take a physical and emotional toll. In addition to medical therapies intended to treat the cancer itself, an important part of cancer care is relieving symptoms and side effects. This is called palliative or supportive care, and it includes supporting the patient with their physical, emotional, and social needs.

Palliative care focuses on reducing symptoms, improving quality of life, and supporting patients and their families. Any person, regardless of age or type and stage of cancer, may receive palliative care. It works best when palliative care is started early in the cancer treatment process. People will often concurrently receive treatment for cancer and to ease side effects. In fact, patients who receive both at the same time often have less severe symptoms, better quality of life, and report that they are more satisfied with treatment.

Palliative treatments vary widely and often include medication, nutritional changes, relaxation techniques, emotional support, and other therapies. You may also receive palliative treatments similar to those meant to eliminate the cancer, such as chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation therapy. Talk with your doctor about the goals of each treatment in the treatment plan.

Before treatment begins, talk with your health care team about the possible side effects of your specific treatment plan and palliative care options. During and after treatment, be sure to tell your doctor or another health care team member if you are experiencing a problem, so it can be addressed as quickly as possible.


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