Palliative Care and Cancer Treatment

A cancer diagnosis is frightening and often impacts patients on both a physical and an emotional level. It can actually lead to symptoms such as pain, nausea, anxiety and depression. These symptoms, as well as those that are caused by the cancer and/or the cancer treatment, can be eased through the incorporation of palliative medicine into the patient’s care plan.

Palliative medicine, which is commonly referred to as palliative care, provides an extra layer of support to patients and their families throughout the cancer journey. This support can include both medical and holistic approaches to care depending on the patient’s wishes and personal circumstances.

“As a palliative care physician, I strive to get to know each patient individually by encouraging them to talk about their cancer journey and learning what is important to them. Many patients find this to be very helpful and therapeutic. By getting to know patients and finding ways to help them to manage their symptoms, I can help them live in a way in which their cancer diagnosis is not on their minds 24/7,” explains Ayelet Spitzer, D.O., Supportive Care Specialist, Valley-Mount Sinai Comprehensive Cancer Care.

Some examples of palliative care services are:

  • Symptom management
  • Support for complex decision managing
  • Goal setting
  • Advance care planning
  • Social and caregiver assessment and support
  • Spiritual care
  • Care coordination/transition management
  • Self-management techniques

“Please keep in mind that palliative care should not be confused with hospice care, which is palliative care provided during the end of life. All cancer patients can benefit from palliative care services, regardless of where they are on their cancer journey. In fact, most palliative care services are offered while patients are receiving cancer treatment. Palliative care is not about dying—it is about living life to the fullest,” adds Dr. Spitzer.