What You Should Know About Palliative Care

senior man receives in-home medical care from his doctor as his wife watches

Everyone with a serious illness such as cancer can benefit from palliative care as part of their treatment plan. Palliative care includes supportive care managed by your care team, such as relief from symptoms, pain, and stress. It’s meant to improve quality of life for patients and their families.

Palliative care may include:

  • Medicines to control pain, nausea, and other symptoms
  • Help with emotional and spiritual needs
  • Support to help you better understand your disease and diagnosis
  • Assistance with making medical decisions
  • Coordination with your other doctors
  • Assurance that all your care needs – physical, emotional, spiritual, and social – are being addressed

Sometimes people confuse palliative care with hospice care. Both focus on improving the person’s quality of life while they are living. But palliative care is appropriate at any age and at any stage of a serious illness. It’s given throughout the illness, while hospice care is given near the end of life.

Palliative care can be given by your regular health care team, or by palliative care specialists. If you have a need that’s not being met, talk to your doctor, nurse, or health care team about incorporating palliative care into your treatment.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Watch Palliative Care: A Lifeline to Quality of Life to learn what the American Cancer Society is doing to advance the field of palliative care.


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