Caring for the Symptoms of Cancer and its Treatment

December 30, 2013
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In this podcast, we'll discuss palliative care.


You’re listening to a podcast from Cancer.Net. This cancer information website is produced by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, known as ASCO, the world’s leading professional organization for doctors who care for people with cancer.

In this podcast, we’ll discuss palliative care. Palliative care, also called supportive care or symptom management, is any treatment that focuses on reducing your symptoms from cancer or its treatment, improving your quality of life, and supporting you and your family through cancer treatment and beyond.

Palliative care is best given as soon as possible after a cancer diagnosis, should continue throughout cancer treatment, and even after treatment. It is usually given alongside treatment to eliminate the cancer and can include medications, nutritional changes, relaxation techniques, and emotional support. Overall, palliative care focuses on the following four goals:

Goal number one is to treat pain, nausea, and other physical symptoms caused by cancer or its treatment.

Number two is to care for a person’s emotional, social, and spiritual needs.

Number three is to address a person’s practical needs, such as financial concerns and transportation.

And goal number four is to provide support for the patient’s family, friends, and caregivers.

Where you receive palliative care depends on the type of treatment or care you need. For example, some treatments to relieve side effects may be given in your doctor’s office or at the hospital and some may be prescribed for you to use at home. Also, because palliative care focuses on more than just your physical needs, it often involves a team of health care professionals who work together to provide you with the best care. Your doctor usually leads the team and makes your treatment plan. Nurses may provide direct care and can help you work with other members of your health care team. A social worker can help with financial issues and arranging family meetings, while a dietitian can help you make sure you are meeting your nutritional needs. You may also need to visit a physical therapist or an occupational therapist to help you maintain and improve your ability to move and perform daily tasks. And, a chaplain or other religious advisor can help with your spiritual needs, while a mental health counselor can provide guidance on your emotional well-being, or that of your family and friends.

It’s important to note that hospice care and palliative care mean two different things, although you may hear them used similarly. Hospice care is provided when the person is expected to live six months or less, while palliative care is used at every step during a person’s illness and treatment.

To learn more about the type of palliative care and support that is appropriate for you, talk with your doctor or another member of your health care team. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your specific diagnosis and treatment plan, including how these may change over time. And, you are always encouraged to talk with your doctor and other health care team members about physical symptoms or emotional and practical needs you may have and how they can be managed, to improve your quality of life.

For more information on managing the symptoms of cancer and its treatment, talk with your doctor or visit Cancer.Net is supported by the Conquer Cancer Foundation, which is working to create a world free from the fear of cancer by funding breakthrough research, sharing knowledge with physicians and patients worldwide, and supporting initiatives to ensure that all people have access to high-quality cancer care. Thank you for listening to this Cancer.Net podcast.