A diagnosis of cancer creates physical, emotional and practical concerns for patients and their families. As part of your medical team, our symptom management and palliative medicine specialists work hand-in-hand with your oncologists to improve quality of life throughout your cancer journey.

What is Symptom Management and Palliative Medicine?

Palliative medicine, also known as supportive care, can improve the quality of life for adults, children and families facing cancer by focusing on relief from the pain, stress and other symptoms of cancer and its treatment. It is appropriate at any age and any stage of illness.

The Symptom Management and Palliative Medicine service offers a team-based and patient-centered approach. It consists of doctors, advanced practice providers and social workers who work alongside your other clinicians to maximize your quality of life throughout your cancer journey.

Palliative medicine physicians have special training and expertise in pain management and symptom control, and specialize in helping patients and their families cope with the many burdens of serious illness –– from the side effects of medical treatment to caregiver stress and fears about the future.

In addition to helping with physical and emotional symptoms, the Symptom Management and Palliative Medicine team can assist you with difficult medical decisions, helping you weigh the pros and cons of various treatments. We are dedicated to empowering patients and families to have an active role in choosing a personalized medical plan of care; we will take time to understand what is important to you as a person, and help you understand how to achieve your goals throughout your cancer journey.

When should symptom management and palliative care begin?

Ideally, palliative care begins at the time of diagnosis for patients who have palliative care needs. Research shows that early referral to a palliative medicine team results in fewer hospitalizations, superior symptom relief and improved quality of life.

When should I see the Symptom Management and Palliative Medicine team?

You may be referred for uncontrolled symptoms, such as:

  • pain
  • shortness of breath
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • nausea and vomiting
  • nervousness
  • neuropathy
  • insomnia
  • loss of appetite
  • sadness
  • Difficulty completing daily activities and self-care.
  • Stress from diagnosis or having to make complicated medical decisions.
  • Help with clarifying treatment goals.
  • Understanding end-of-life care.

You may also request a referral from your cancer care team.

What is the difference between palliative medicine and hospice?

Hospice is a specific type of palliative care for people who likely have six months or less to live. Hospice care is always palliative, but not all palliative care is hospice care. Patients receiving hospice care are no longer receiving active therapy, whereas palliative care can be provided at any stage of illness.

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