Palliative Care: Coping with Late Stage Cancer
Modern medicine has made remarkable progress in recent decades. Cancer treatment is a great example of the advancements that doctors and scientists have achieved. Cancer patients are living longer. Some cancers can now be cured.
Not every type of cancer can be treated, however, and some cancers are hard to detect early. When a cancer has spread throughout the body, treatment may no longer work. Whether that happens or not, some patients live with late stage cancer for years. Those people need to be comfortable and keep their spirits up. Palliative care can be an option for those people.
Palliative care doesn’t treat the disease. The goal is not to cure. Instead, it treats the symptoms and side effects of the disease. It also can sometimes treat the side effects of therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
This type of care is also called “comfort care,” “supportive care,” or “symptom management.” Patients can get information about nearby palliative care services from their RCCA team.
Palliative care takes many forms
Here are some of the ways palliative care can help:
- Symptom relief. Many late stage cancer patients have symptoms such as pain, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, or shortness of breath. Some people have trouble sleeping. These symptoms don’t always come from the cancer. They can be caused by patients’ chemotherapy, radiation therapy or even surgery that’s done to keep the cancer under control.
Palliative care can include giving pain medication or other medicine to help with these symptoms. These medicines can be taken along with the cancer control treatments. Patients can also get nutritional therapy, physical therapy and alternative therapies of various kinds for their symptoms.
- Practical help. Cancer is hard to deal with, but sometimes you also have to deal with financial issues or have trouble with health insurance or other parts of the healthcare system. You may have trouble working or be unable to work. Palliative care may be able to help with these issues. RCCA care professionals can help find resources, counselors and organizations that can provide support.
- Emotional and spiritual support. Cancer patients often feel fear, anxiety and confusion. Some people get depressed. Family and friends may not know what to say or how to cope. For all these reasons, it makes sense to get help. Experts can provide counseling. Support groups can be a place to talk and share emotions.
Can palliative care help your caregivers?
Cancer can make caregivers more important than ever. Having support from the people you love makes a huge difference. But those people may need help too. Sometimes caregivers don’t know what to say. They may not know how to cope with all the new things they need to do. Palliative care can help, offering support and comfort in many ways.
Is palliative care the same as hospice care?
Hospice care is usually given during the final six months of life. Palliative care can start much sooner, even while the patient is receiving treatment. The goal is to help patients deal with physical and emotional pain and other cancer challenges.
Regional Cancer Care Associates — Cancer care you can trust
Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) delivers the support, education and individualized attention you need. Your highly trained, experienced and compassionate cancer doctors — along with your physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists and other team members — are dedicated to your optimal health. At RCCA, we focus on every patient and work with you and your family to give you the finest care available.