What is palliative care?
Palliative care is specialized medical care for those with serious or life-threatening illnesses, such as cancer. The goal of palliative care is to provide relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness, and to improve the quality of life for patients and their families.
Palliative care is administered by a comprehensive team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who – working alongside the patient’s oncologist — are dedicated to providing an extra layer of support. Palliative care is appropriate at any age and stage in a serious illness and can be combined with curative treatment.
Palliative care is sometimes referred to as comfort care, symptom management or supportive care. It is not the same as hospice care. Unlike hospice care, which is available only to patients who are not receiving anticancer therapy (surgery, chemotherapy or radiation) and who have a limited prognosis, palliative care can be offered alongside anticancer therapy, including when the goal of that therapy is a cure.
On the Anschutz Medical Campus, specialty palliative care services are available both for patients who are hospitalized and in the outpatient cancer center. The palliative care team addresses physical, emotional, spiritual, social and psychological needs of patients and their family members throughout an illness. This team collaborates openly and often with other healthcare providers involved with the patient’s care, including the patient’s oncologist.
Services provided by the University of Colorado’s Palliative Care Program
Specific services provided by the palliative care program depend on patient needs but can include a combination of the following:
- Symptom assessment and management (for cancer-related symptom and treatment-related side effects)
- Psychosocial assessment and management
- Spiritual and cultural assessment and support
- Support for caregivers
- Assistance with communication and shared decision making.
One of the hallmarks of palliative care is to give patients control over their care by providing excellent information and the power to make their own choices. In this manner, palliative care offers peace and dignity to the patient and his or her family members throughout the illness, and helps to ensure that each woman’s treatment plan is individualized to her preferences and values.
To receive palliative care, request a referral by your primary doctor or gynecologic oncologist.