Palliative care: Symptom relief during illness

Palliative care can provide pain and symptom relief, support, and coordinated, holistic care for people who have serious illnesses. Find out more about palliative care.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you or a loved one has a serious or life-threatening illness, you might have thought about palliative care. To understand palliative care and how it can help relieve pain and improve quality of life, consider the following questions.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is specialized medical care that focuses on providing patients relief from pain and other symptoms of a serious illness. A multidisciplinary care team aims to improve quality of life for people who have serious or life-threatening illnesses, no matter the diagnosis or stage of disease.

Palliative care takes into account your emotional, physical and spiritual needs and goals — as well as the needs of your family. It's offered alongside curative or other treatments you may be receiving.

How is palliative care different from hospice?

Palliative care is available at any stage of a serious or life-threatening illness. Hospice care is available only at the end of life — when curative or life-prolonging treatments have been stopped. You don't have to be in hospice to receive palliative care.

Who can benefit from palliative care?

Anyone who has a serious or life-threatening illness can benefit from palliative care, either to treat symptoms of the disease, such as pain or shortness of breath, or to ease the side effects of treatment, such as fatigue or nausea.

Palliative care may be a good option for children and adults with a serious illness who need help:

  • Managing symptoms
  • Addressing concerns that matter most to them
  • Understanding what to expect with their care plan
  • Understanding programs and resources available to support them throughout their illness
  • Understanding the pros and cons of treatment options
  • Making decisions in line with their personal values and goals
Feb. 20, 2016 See more In-depth