Palliative Care for Prostate Cancer

There is sometimes confusion about what palliative care is. This may include a belief that it is the same as hospice. But hospice care and palliative care aren't the same. Palliative care is given at every step of the treatment process and at all stages of illness to improve comfort and quality of life. Hospice care is a form of palliative care given to people with cancer who are expected to live six months or less.

Palliative care - Elderly white man at a hospital

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is given to improve quality of life for someone with a serious or life-threatening disease such as cancer. It can be particularly beneficial if you have advanced prostate cancer, helping you enjoy your daily life. You may also hear words such as comfort care, supportive care, and symptom management used to describe palliative care. Cure is not the goal with 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.

Goals of palliative care

  • Treating and preventing symptoms such as pain, nausea, weakness, fatigue, and other physical symptoms caused by cancer or its treatment
  • Treating emotional and social needs
  • Addressing spiritual needs or concerns
  • Addressing practical needs, such as transportation and financial concerns
  • Providing support for family, friends, and caregivers
Headshot of Dr. Alicia Morgans

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. Some locations may have doctors who specialize in palliative care. 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.

Communicating with your care team about palliative care

Talking about your cancer treatment and side effects 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 you are having so your healthcare team can help you manage these. This includes physical side effects such as pain, but also those related to mental, emotional, social, or spiritual health
Dr. Eric Shinohara speaking during a video recording
Hospice and end of life

Navigating hospice care

Making the transition to hospice care can be very difficult. If you or a loved one is living with very advanced prostate cancer, talk with your healthcare providers about how they can help you make this transition.