Palliative care for people with cancer designed to fit the needs of each patient

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
Editor's note: November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. Consider 
sharing this article to raise awareness of the importance of palliative care to 
quality of life.

By Jennifer O'Hara

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 Deirdre Pachman, M.D., 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 video, watch Dr. Pachman discusses how palliative care can improve quality of life for people with cancer:

For the safety of its patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was recorded prior to COVID-19 or recorded in an area not designated for patient care, where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.