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
- What is palliative care? GetPalliativeCare.org. https://getpalliativecare.org/whatis/. Accessed June 8, 2021.
- Okon TR. Overview of comprehensive patient assessment in palliative care. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed June 8, 2021.
- Palliative care in cancer. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/advanced-cancer/care-choices/palliative-care-fact-sheet#when-is-palliative-care-used-in-cancer-care. Accessed June 7, 2021.
- Bruera E. Overview of managing common non-pain symptoms in palliative care. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed June 7, 2021
- Salins N, et al. Integration of early specialist palliative care in cancer care and patient related outcomes: A critical review of evidence. Indian Journal of Palliative Care. 2016;22:252.
- Gradwohl R, et al. Hospital-based palliative care: Quality metrics that matter. Journal of the Advanced Practitioner in Oncology. 2015; doi: 10.4103/0973-1075.185028