The goals of palliative care include:
- Treating and preventing symptoms such as pain, nausea, fatigue and other physical symptoms caused by cancer or its treatment
- Treating a patient’s emotional and social needs
- Addressing a patient’s spiritual needs or concerns
- Addressing a patient’s practical needs, such as transportation and financial concerns
- Providing support for the patient’s family, friends, and caregiver
Cure is not the goal with palliative care, it is to provide comfort. You may also hear words such as comfort care, supportive care and symptom management used to describe palliative care.
Palliative care can help a person at any stage of illness and is most closely associated with advanced disease. Palliative treatments vary widely and often include medication, nutritional changes, relaxation techniques and other therapies. You may also receive palliative treatments for prostate cancer that are similar to those meant to eliminate the cancer, such as chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy.
The Palliative Care Team
Experts from several different professional specialties, not just physicians, may make up your palliative care team. Each person’s palliative care team will be different and the resources available at each hospital or cancer center will vary. Your team may include the oncologist, nurses, social worker, chaplain, pharmacists, physical therapists and others. If you or a loved one needs palliative care, ask your doctor for a referral.
Talking about your cancer and cancer treatment is an important part of palliative care because it is a way to express your needs, desires, and hopes. One of the team’s goals is to help you feel comfortable talking with your healthcare team about what is important to you. Working together with your healthcare team will ensure you have the best palliative care. Here are some tips to help promote good communication:
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your doctors and nurses.
- Ask your doctor to explain the diagnosis, treatment options and plan and prognosis.
- Make sure to communicate any side effects of discomfort you are having so your healthcare team can help you manage these.