Supportive & palliative care means quality of life care — early on

Pictured: Christy Paddon, a medical social worker at Roswell Park, with a patient.

So why do many people avoid It?

Cancer patients often experience pain, nausea, emotional distress, and other symptoms caused by the disease and/or the side effects of treatment. Their caregivers may become stressed and overwhelmed, too. When those issues grow beyond basic, expected side effects and are no longer under control, supportive and palliative care can help.

Supportive and palliative care experts make life easier and more comfortable through pain management, nutrition advice, emotional support, and other specialized services. The team includes physicians, nurses, therapists, chaplains, and mental health professionals, as well as social workers who can assist with a range of issues, such as health care planning.

Amy Case, MD, FAAHPM
Amy Case, MD, FAAHPM, Clinical Chief, Department of Supportive and Palliative Care.

Research shows that patients who take advantage of supportive and palliative care tend to live longer, have better pain control, and feel happier and less anxious. That’s why it’s better for patients to “receive supportive and palliative care earlier in their illness rather than later, so they can receive the maximum benefit from the service,” explains Amy Case, MD, FAAHPM, Clinical Chief, Department of Supportive and Palliative Care.

So why do many people avoid it? “Palliative care is sometimes confused with hospice care,” says Dr. Case. “Palliative care is provided to patients at any stage of chronic illness, whereas hospice care is intensive palliative care given for patients who are expected to live six months or less. Palliative care includes hospice care, but not all palliative care is hospice care.

“So if your medical team recommends a Palliative Care team consultation, that does not mean they are recommending hospice care for you.”

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Here’s a brief comparison:

Palliative Care

  • Care during any stage of chronic illness
  • Patient may be receiving treatment to try to cure the disease

Hospice Care

  • End-of-life care (life expectancy six months or less)
  • Patient is no longer seeking treatment to try to cure the disease

If you think you or a loved one would benefit from these supportive care services, please ask your Roswell Park physician for a referral to Supportive and Palliative Care. A team-based approach to better quality of life is just around the corner.