Why Physicians Recommend Palliative Care

Dr June Kim Radiation Oncologist

What is palliative care?

At Turville Bay, palliative care is given throughout a patient’s experience with cancer to improve their quality of life. “The goal is to relieve pain and discomfort thereby helping them maintain independence,” says Dr. June Kim, Radiation Oncologist.

Palliative care for cancer patients addresses psychological, social, and even spiritual problems along with pain. At Turville Bay, palliative care is not used to treat the cancer itself, it is used to treat the symptoms and side effects of the cancer and its treatment. Palliative care can begin at diagnosis and continue through cancer treatment and follow-up care. The earlier palliative care starts, the better the outcome.

“Palliative care requires continuous teamwork,” says Dr. Kim, “including a radiation oncologist, nurses, therapists, dosimetrist, physicist and at times, clergy, social workers, and rehab technicians.”

Does palliative care make a difference?

The benefits of palliative care on a patient’s quality of life have been shown in numerous studies. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), clinical trials found that patients who received palliative care along with treatment for advanced cancer reported having a better quality of life and mood than patients who did not receive early palliative care. Patients who received palliative care also scored higher on their ability to cope with their cancer.

Palliative care can also increase survival rates. A landmark study showed patients who had early palliative care in conjunction with cancer treatment had a longer median survival than those who had cancer care alone.1

Are palliative care and hospice the same?

Both palliative care and hospice care provide comfort. But palliative care can begin at diagnosis and be given at the same time as treatment. Hospice care is often given later in the patient’s journey. Hospice care doesn’t mean that treatment stops. It means the type of treatment and goals of care changes to things like managing pain and other symptoms while helping patients reach their goals in the time that’s left.”

Is palliative care recommended for all cancer patients? Any person with any type or stage of cancer can benefit from palliative care. If you or a loved one feel you could benefit from palliative care, ask your doctor for a referral.

Sources: 1. Early palliative care for patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=20818875)
2. National Cancer Institute (NCI)