Palliative care for metastatic breast cancer

Learn how palliative care can help you feel better during treatment.

Living with metastatic breast cancer is often stressful, and the side effects of treatment can impact your quality of life. Palliative care can help manage your symptoms so that you feel better — physically and emotionally.

The goal of palliative care is to help people living with an illness to cope with the condition and feel better. People who receive palliative care have a wide range of health conditions, such as cancer, Parkinson's disease, heart disease, dementia, kidney failure and stroke.

A specially trained doctor, nurse or other health care professional provides palliative care. Palliative care specialists have expertise in relieving the side effects of treatment that often accompany metastatic breast cancer, such as pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, constipation and sleep problems.

Getting the most from palliative care

Teamwork is a key part of palliative care. A palliative care specialist works with your care team to create an individualized plan to reduce the side effects and complications you may experience during treatment. This can make it more likely that you'll complete your treatment and maintain a quality of life that allows you to continue doing things that are important to you.

In one study, patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer who received palliative care early in their treatment plans had significant improvements in quality of life and mood and longer survival time.

Palliative care doesn't interfere with or limit other types of care you receive. In fact, it's vital that you continue treatment for your condition and maintain a relationship with your primary physician or care team.

Palliative care takes into account your emotional and spiritual well-being as well. Experts help patients find ways to cope with the emotional impact of having metastatic breast cancer. They can also provide support and resources for people with depression or anxiety. In addition, palliative care can provide support for your entire family, helping everyone cope better while you go through treatment.

Palliative care is not hospice care

People often confuse palliative care and hospice care, thinking that the two are the same. But they're not. Palliative care focuses on improving quality of life for someone who has a serious illness. It is provided along with treatments that are intended to cure or improve an illness. Hospice care focuses on the care and comfort of a person who is approaching the end of life — when attempts to cure the person's illness have stopped. Hospice care is typically provided when survival time is estimated to be less than 6 months. Palliative care, on the other hand, can start any time after someone is diagnosed with a serious health condition or disease.

Palliative care is useful when navigating an illness because it helps you and your loved ones feel better. Talk to your doctor about the benefits of palliative care and the services offered through your health care organization.

June 29, 2021 See more In-depth

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  25. Breast self-exam for breast awareness
  26. Chemo Targets
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  30. Chemotherapy for breast cancer
  31. Chemotherapy nausea and vomiting: Prevention is best defense
  32. Chest X-rays
  33. Complete blood count (CBC)
  34. Conflicting mammogram results: What can I do?
  35. Coping with pain after breast surgery
  36. COVID-19 vaccine: Should I reschedule my mammogram?
  37. CT scan
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  39. Dense breast tissue
  40. Does soy really affect breast cancer risk?
  41. Dragon Boats and Breast Cancer
  42. Gene expression profiling for breast cancer: What is it?
  43. Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer
  44. Genetic testing for breast cancer: Psychological and social impact
  45. Get ready for possible side effects of chemotherapy
  46. Get the support you need when you have metastatic breast cancer
  47. Ginger for nausea: Does it work?
  48. Hormone therapy for breast cancer
  49. Metastatic breast cancer
  50. Lower your risk of breast cancer
  51. Lumpectomy
  52. Magic mouthwash
  53. Mammogram
  54. Mammogram: Can it find cancer in dense breasts?
  55. Mammogram guidelines: What are they?
  56. Mastectomy
  57. Metastatic breast cancer: Should you get a second opinion?
  58. Modified radical mastectomy
  59. Molecular breast imaging
  60. Infographic: Molecular Breast Imaging
  61. MRI
  62. MRI-guided breast biopsy
  63. What is breast cancer? An expert explains
  64. Nipple discharge
  65. Nipple-sparing mastectomy
  66. Oncoplastic breast surgery
  67. Palliative care: Who is it for?
  68. PALS (Pets Are Loving Support)
  69. Paulas story A team approach to battling breast cancer
  70. Pink Sisters
  71. Positron emission mammography (PEM)
  72. Positron emission tomography scan
  73. Precision medicine for breast cancer
  74. Preventive (prophylactic) mastectomy
  75. Prophylactic oophorectomy: Preventing cancer by surgically removing your ovaries
  76. Radiation therapy
  77. Radiation therapy for breast cancer
  78. Relationships and metastatic breast cancer
  79. Infographic: Scalp Cooling Therapy for Cancer
  80. Seeing inside the heart with MRI
  81. Sentinel node biopsy
  82. Skin-sparing mastectomy
  83. Stereotactic breast biopsy
  84. Support groups
  85. Tai chi
  86. The Long Race Beating Cancer
  87. Thyroid guard: Do I need one during a mammogram?
  88. Tomosynthesis-guided breast biopsy
  89. Treatment options for metastatic breast cancer
  90. Ultrasound
  91. Sentinel node biopsy for melanoma
  92. Mammogram for breast cancer — What to expect
  93. MRI
  94. Tai chi
  95. Weight Loss After Breast Cancer
  96. What is metastatic breast cancer?
  97. Working with your doctor when you have metastatic breast cancer: Interview with a Mayo Clinic expert.
  98. X-ray
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