Palliative care can be said to be the care given to patients suffering from a life threatening disease. This care is meant to improve the quality of the life that they live.
The World Health Organization defines palliative care as: “…an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.”
Palliative care is not just care provided in the final stages of life, but will help you to live well with a terminal illness. Sometimes palliative care can be of benefit for a person at their initial diagnosis of a life-limiting condition, or be useful on and off through various stages of an illness. Many people have long-term interactions with their palliative care team, seeing them during the course of their illness.
Cancer is a life threatening disease and the treatment that patients undergo plus its many symptoms have an overwhelming effect on the patients. This necessitates the need of palliative care for them for support and ease of side effects.
Cancer and its treatment may cause many symptoms and side effects. Symptoms and side effects may be a source of stress for patients and their families. Besides treating the underlying cancer, the health care team will also manage cancer symptoms and the side effects of treatment. This approach is called palliative or supportive care.
Understanding palliative care
Palliative care is any treatment that focuses on preventing and managing the symptoms of cancer and side effects of treatment. It also provides comprehensive support to people living with cancer and their families. Any person, regardless of age or type and stage of cancer, may receive palliative care.
People should receive treatment for the cancer and treatment to ease side effects at the same time. When side effects and other challenges of treatment are well managed, people have better quality of life and report they are more satisfied with treatment.
Palliative treatments often include medication, nutritional changes, relaxation techniques, spiritual support, emotional support, and other therapies. You may also receive palliative treatments similar to those used to eliminate the cancer, such as chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation therapy. For example, when radiation therapy helps control pain, it is considered a palliative treatment. That is why it is important to understand the goals of each treatment in your care plan.
The goals of palliative care are to ensure that the patient enjoys good quality of life and that they do not suffer much pain. Palliative care teams work with doctors to ensure that every patient receives the best care.
Once the members of your palliative care team understand your needs, they will work with your primary care doctor and other experts to create an individualized palliative care plan. The goals are:
- Relieve pain and other symptoms
- Address your emotional and spiritual concerns, and those of your caregivers
- Coordinate your care
- Improve your quality of life during your illness