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Palliative care is offered alongside cancer treatment to help people with cancer manage symptoms and improve the quality of life for them and their families. Palliative care is specialized medical care that focuses on relieving patients' pain and other symptoms of serious illness no matter the diagnosis or stage of disease.
"The palliative care team really focuses on addressing symptoms and needs so that we can help people feel as comfortable as they can as they go through their treatment for cancer," says Dr. Deirdre Pachman, a palliative medicine expert at Mayo Clinic. "We do this by focusing and talking about some different interventions. They might be medications, or they might be other procedures for pain that some of our colleagues do. Palliative care is a very team-based approach, so we may involve our nurses, our physical therapists, our social workers really to all be there to help support the patient and make sure that we're addressing their symptoms and their needs."
Palliative care is designed to fit the life and needs of each individual patient. It may include symptom management, support and advice, care techniques that improve comfort and well-being, referrals to other specialists, and advance care planning. Palliative care also offers support for families and those caring for people with cancer.
"The goal of palliative care, along with helping patients manage their symptoms and improving quality of life, is really providing that support to their loved ones or their caregivers, so that they have time to care for themselves and feel well-supported so that they can continue to give to others," says Dr. Pachman.
Research indicates that early use of palliative care services can improve quality of life for people with serious illness, decrease depression and anxiety, increase patient and family satisfaction with care, and in some cases even extend survival.
On this Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Pachman discusses how palliative care can improve quality of life for people with cancer.
Watch: Dr. Pachman discuss palliative care for cancer.
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