Palliative care for biliary tract cancer

Learn what to expect with this care approach that offers comfort and symptom relief for people with biliary tract cancer.

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

Palliative care specialists have expertise in relieving the side effects of treatment that often accompany biliary tract cancer, including treatment for pain or discomfort, poor appetite, and nutritional problems and prevention or management of bedsores. They also can help you make a smooth transition between care settings, such as between the hospital and your home or a care facility.

Palliative care is provided by a team of health care providers, including doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains and other trained specialists. The team works with you, your family and your other providers to add an extra layer of support and relief that complements other treatments you may be receiving. They may ask the question, "What are you most concerned about?"

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 serious illness who received palliative care early in their treatment plans had significant improvements in quality of life and mood, shorter hospital stays, and longer survival time.

Palliative care doesn't interfere with, limit or restrict 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 health care provider or care team.

Palliative care considers your emotional and spiritual well-being too. Experts help patients find ways to cope with the emotional impact of having biliary tract cancer. They also can 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 anytime after someone is diagnosed with a serious health condition or disease. In fact, there is now a movement to have palliative care begin earlier during a person's illness.

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

March 24, 2023 See more In-depth