Palliative care is not new but it is getting a lot more attention in the world of cancer care. We believe this new focus is because the ultimate goal of palliative care, improving quality of life, is important to you and the doctors and nurses on your health care team. Note: the focus of palliative care’s work is on life and living and not on death and dying.
What exactly is palliative care? Palliative care is an approach to care for patients who are living with a serious or life threatening illness. When you are being treated for a serious illness, like cancer, your health care team will include oncologists, nurses, and others, by adding palliative care specialists you will have the best care possible – care focused on treating the medical problem and care focused on your quality of life. Together you and the care team will work to manage your symptoms, control your pain and provide additional support to meet spiritual, emotional, and social needs, ultimately creating a plan for how you want to manage your disease.
One of the more common myths around palliative care is that it is the same as hospice. Hospice is a type of palliative care that is important for patients when the focus of their care is moving from changing the course of the disease to comfort measures. Palliative care is a holistic approach to care for patients with serious (perhaps even life-threatening) illness that considers how the illness is impacting the body, mind and spirit of each patient. Research looking at the impact of palliative care supports the belief that early involvement of the palliative care team is beneficial to patients and their families. In short, palliative care helps you (and your family) focus on what matters most as you manage the stress and strain of living with a serious illness. Our message is that palliative care is of benefit at ANY stage of serious illness!
By taking charge of your cancer journey, you can ultimately take charge of how you want things to be throughout the course of your illness and when needed to your death. Together with your doctor a plan for your care can be developed that fits with your personal goals of care and the medical situation. Please share your plans with your family and others who are close to you. Know that there are many resources available to help you have this conversation. For your convenience we are including a couple of well-respected websites that provide information on palliative care for your consideration. (https://getpalliativecare.org/ AND http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/palliativecare/index)
You have lots of living to do and palliative care can help you make the most out of life with cancer!
Olumuyiwa O. Adeboye, MD, FACP, MBA and Ann K. Patek, RN, MSN Ministry Health Care