Research shows that in addition to increasing quality of
life, providing palliative care administered by a specialist
palliative care team to patients who are being treated for
cancer can also improve survival and that the sooner
palliative is initiated after a cancer diagnosis, the more
patients benefit (175, 176). Moreover, a recent study found
that family caregivers of cancer patients who received
palliative care had a better quality of life and fewer
symptoms of depression compared with family caregivers
of those patients who did not receive palliative care (176).
Despite the growing evidence that specialist palliative care
has tremendous benefits for patients with cancer and their
families, there is a need for additional carefully designed
clinical trials to more clearly determine the best time to
initiate palliative care after a cancer diagnosis and the best
way to deliver the care to achieve the maximum benefit for
patients and their families (177). Two ongoing randomized
clinical trials, which recently reported early data indicating
that integrating specialist palliative care during the early
stages of cancer care improved quality of life, should help
98 AACR CANCER PROGRESS REPORT 2016
It is specialized care that provides an extra layer of support to patients with serious illnesses such as cancer and their families.
It is not the same as hospice care, because it can be given throughout a patient’s experience with cancer,
beginning at diagnosis and continuing through treatment, follow-up, survivorship, and end-of-life care.
It can be given in addition to cancer treatment or to those with no curative treatment options;
palliative care given near the end of life is usually referred to as hospice care.
Palliative care addresses many of the challenges that can affect quality of life after a cancer diagnosis, including:
• emotional challenges such as anxiety and depression;
• physical symptoms and adverse effects of the disease and its treatment,
such as pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and loss of appetite;
• practical challenges such as navigating the health care system; and
• spiritual challenges.
Any health care provider can provide primary palliative care by addressing the adverse effects
and emotional issues facing a patient with cancer, but some specialize in this area of patient care.
Palliative care specialists usually work as part of multidisciplinary team that includes doctors,
nurses, registered dieticians, pharmacists, social workers, psychologists, and chaplains.
The palliative care team works alongside the physicians treating the patient’s cancer.
Any patient diagnosed with a serious illness, such as cancer, including children.
The family members and friends of a patient diagnosed with a serious illness can receive palliative care
to help provide them the support they need.
Palliative care is most widely available in hospital settings, but a team can also provide it at home,
over the phone, or in an outpatient clinic.
WHAT IS PALLIATIVE CARE?
WHO PROVIDES PALLIATIVE CARE?
WHO CAN RECEIVE PALLIATIVE CARE?
WHERE CAN PATIENTS RECEIVE PALLIATIVE CARE?