Any treatment that is done to relieve the symptoms of cancer or the negative effects of cancer treatment is considered palliative care. Palliative care is not curative; rather, the idea is to make patients more comfortable and improve their quality of life while undergoing treatments. Studies have shown that palliative care can greatly enhance a patient’s quality of life during this very difficult time, especially if begun early in treatment. 1
Palliative care is usually provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient’s doctors to provide an extra layer of support. Sometimes called “supportive care”, palliative care is driven by the unique needs of the individual patient, not on the patient’s prognosis. Palliative care is appropriate at any stage of a serious illness, and it can be provided along with the patient’s regular treatments.
While pain management is certainly a large part of palliative care, it’s not the only concern. Besides their physical needs, cancer patients have emotional and often spiritual needs as well. All major cancer centers have palliative care teams, including a therapist and spiritual advisor, to address those needs. There’s often also a dietitian to address nausea, weight loss, and loss of appetite, and a financial advisor to help the patient and family through the maze of bills and insurance claims.
Differences between palliative care and hospice care
It is important to make the distinction between palliative care and hospice care. The two are often confused because they overlap. However, while palliative care can and should be practiced during all stages of cancer treatment, hospice care is focused on making the patient feel cared for and comfortable in what is thought to be the last six months of life. (Therefore, hospice care includes palliative care, but palliative care is not necessarily hospice care.)
Find out more
To find out more about palliative care, talk to your oncologist or someone on your oncology care team. They can refer you to the appropriate specialists.
Click here to learn more about hospice care.
Please note: The Fibrolamellar Cancer Foundation does not provide medical advice or recommend any specific organizations or services. We provide website users with information to help them better understand their health conditions and current approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of FLC. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.