What is Palliative Care?
- The aim of palliative care is to improve patients’ quality of life
- Palliative care is not the same as hospice care
- Palliative care can and should start at the beginning of cancer treatment (or any time thereafter)
- Palliative care can include pain control, symptom relief, physical therapy, exercise, and psychological counseling
- Palliative care can go on for many years
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) defines palliative care as "an approach to care that addresses the person as a whole, not just their disease." It's a type of care that's meant to address the symptoms and side effects that your cancer or its treatment may cause, ranging from psychological experiences like stress and fear to physical experiences like pain and discomfort.Read More
Start at the Beginning
In fact, far from being part of ovarian cancer care only towards the end of treatment, many specialists believe that palliative care should be part of a patient's care right from the beginning, helping patients to manage the psychological and physical stresses of their disease and its treatment, so they can go on living their lives as actively and normally as possible, for as long as possible. Palliative care may include:
- Pain control
- Symptom relief
- Physical therapy
- Psychological counseling
Unfortunatelyand in part due to the misconceptions surrounding the termmany women and their oncologists don't have discussions about palliative care upfront. These conversations need to begin at the point of diagnosis, when a woman begins treatmentregardless of the stage of her cancer.
"Palliative care is about quality of life throughout the entire disease," says Dr. Metzinger. He says that patients who've gone through initial treatment and are in remission can sometimes feel as if they're just waiting for the disease to come back. "And you have to tell them that what they need is to just go on living. Yeah, the disease might come back. But it might be five years from now," he says. And in the mean time people should try to focus on life. Palliative care can help patients deal with these feelings.
While fighting the ovarian cancer itself, with surgery, chemotherapy, and maintenance therapy, is obviously the focus of most medical treatment for the disease, palliative care provides another level of treatment for patients. And while the drugs and surgery are solidly aimed at extending life, the aim of palliative carewhich can continue for many yearsis making that life less stressful and more comfortable.