The aim of palliative treatment is to relieve symptoms and improve your quality of life. It can be used at any stage of an illness if there are troubling symptoms, such as pain or sickness. In advanced cancer, palliative treatment might help someone to live longer and more comfortably, even if they cannot be cured.
Palliative treatment is not just about medicines to control symptoms - such as painkillers and anti sickness drugs. Cancer treatments can also reduce or get rid of symptoms. For example, they can help to reduce pain by shrinking a tumour and reducing pressure on nerves or surrounding tissues. Treatments used in this way include:
- hormone therapy
- targeted cancer drugs
- radiofrequency ablation, which uses heat to kill cancer cells
- cryotherapy, which uses extreme cold to destroy cancer cells
You might have some side effects from palliative cancer treatments. But the aim is to make you feel better. So your cancer specialist will choose treatments that have as few side effects as possible.
Palliative care team
If you have advanced cancer, you are likely to also be under the care of the palliative care team. This team can also support people with any stage of cancer. This may be because they have troublesome symptoms or side effects from treatment. Their expertise can help with a range of issues.
Palliative care is sometimes called supportive care. It offers relief, support and comfort to patients, both in and out of the hospital setting.
Palliative care teams are made up of:
- specialist doctors and nurses
- social workers
- pastoral care workers
- other healthcare professionals, such as dietitians, physiotherapists and counsellors
The palliative care team works together to give you relief from pain and other symptoms. They offer you support to allow you to live as well as possible. They can also help support your relatives and close friends.