Cancer and its treatments can cause many unwanted symptoms and side effects, both physical and emotional. Palliative care can provide relief for the person experiencing these issues and improve their quality of life at all stages of cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Palliative care is an area of medicine focused on pain and symptom management. Palliative care specialists are highly trained in the most up-to-date ways of managing pain and discomfort. They are able to provide help controlling problems such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and sleeping problems. They are also able to provide emotional support. The team works with your primary care doctor or oncologist to determine the best way to meet your needs.
Palliative care is not the same as hospice care. Hospice care uses palliative care approaches, but is for people who are no longer seeking curative treatment for their illness, and it is focused on end-of-life care and support. Unlike in hospice care, palliative care can be used along with medical treatment for any serious illness, at any point in the illness. In fact, a recent study showed that early palliative care had major benefits for people with advanced lung cancer. Not only was quality of life and mood improved in the group of patients receiving early palliative care, but on average they lived longer than those not receiving early palliative care.
In 2007, the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) released the 2nd edition of their Palliative Care in Lung Cancer guidelines, which you can read here.
In February 2012, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) issued a provisional clinical opinion (PCO) recommending that all patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer be offered palliative care along with standard cancer therapy. To read more about the recommendation, click here.
For resource links, please go to the Lung Cancer Online section, Palliative Care.