Palliative care (also referred to as comfort care, supportive care or symptom management) is care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease, such as cancer. The goal of palliative care is to prevent or treat as early as possible the symptoms of cancer, as well as treat the side effects caused by life-prolonging treatments of cancer. Palliative care also addresses psychological, social and spiritual problems related to cancer or its treatment, thus providing patients with whole-person care, not just care of their cancer.
Your cancer treating physician may introduce you to a palliative care team at the start of your active treatment. A palliative care team may consist of board-certified physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, massage therapists, pharmacists, nutritionists and others. Having this team involved in the start of your care will improve your quality of life and whole-person care.
A subtype of palliative care is hospice care, which utilizes the same specialty team and provides whole-person care at the end of life. Hospice care is usually offered when life expectancy is six months or less. Hospice care can be provided in the patient’s home or in a specialized facility.