Palliative Care

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. Sometimes referred to as comfort or supportive care, palliative care is a relatively new medical specialty focused on improving the quality of life for people with serious, chronic and life-threatening illnesses. The goal of palliative care is to prevent or treat the symptoms, side effects and stress of a serious illness.

Palliative care should begin when cancer is diagnosed and continue through treatment and beyond. It includes:

  • Assisting with therapies to relieve common physical symptoms such as pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, shortness of breath or insomnia.
  • Helping with emotional and spiritual problems such as depression, anxiety and fear by providing counseling, recommending support groups, holding family meetings or making referrals to mental health professionals.
  • Addressing the practical concerns of patients and their families, who can become overwhelmed by the extra responsibilities placed upon them. The team may direct patients and families to resources that help with financial counseling, legal advice, transportation assistance or housing needs.

Research shows that palliative care is beneficial to patient and family health and well-being. Studies have shown that patients whose symptoms are controlled and who are able to communicate their emotional needs have a better experience with their medical care. Their quality of life and physical symptoms improve, and they are better able to adhere to their treatment and manage their illness and health.

Furthermore, patients who have serious illnesses and receive palliative care consultation have lower hospital costs. These consultations help determine patients’ treatment priorities and, therefore, help them avoid unnecessary tests and procedures. Palliative care services are usually covered by health insurance. Medicare and Medicaid also pay for palliative care, depending on the situation. Patients should check with their insurance provider.

The mission of Zangmeister Cancer Center’s palliative care team is to complement the therapeutic treatments available with a comprehensive approach aimed at maximizing the quality of our patients’ lives.