Living with cancer blog

Palliative care helps cancer patients live longer and better

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. July 27, 2013

A recent study shows that including palliative care along with standard treatment can improve quality of life and help people with cancer live longer.

Palliative care specialists work with your doctor along with other health care team members such as nurses, nutritionists, social workers, chaplains and pharmacists and focus on creating an individual plan to address any treatment side effects, pain, emotional aspects and other concerns you may be experiencing.

The idea is to treat the whole person — including the physical, emotional, social and spiritual aspects.

Palliative care is often confused with hospice care, which is provided for people who have a terminal diagnosis. Palliative care can be provided at any time during a cancer diagnosis, not just at the end of life.

The research compared two groups — one group had standard oncology care and the second group had standard care along with the addition of palliative care — and focused on pain relief and quality of life.

Results showed that those who had added palliative care reported less depression, anxiety, pain and nausea. They also scored higher on measures of mobility and other quality of life aspects.

Also of interest, the palliative care group — despite many of the participants not opting for aggressive treatment as their cancer progressed — actually lived three months longer than the standard treatment group.

The benefits of palliative care for people with cancer include:

  • The ability to fully complete treatment
  • Improved quality of life during treatment
  • Increased ability to perform daily activities
  • Living longer
  • Improved ability to deal with the emotions
  • Increased connection to social support
  • Fewer hospitalizations

Write back and let others know if you have experienced palliative care. What benefits did you notice?


Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

July 27, 2013