Supportive and palliative care service
Supportive and palliative care can improve your quality of life, regardless of the stage of your disease, and may help you live longer, even with advanced cancer. You can get palliative care along with treatment to fight your cancer. It’s provided by specialists working closely with your oncology team.
What is palliative care?
Palliative care is specialized medicine for people who have a life-limiting or life-threatening condition. It is an extra layer of support for those with a serious illness, not just for those who are dying. At Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), palliative care is for anyone with a cancer diagnosis, and it’s provided in conjunction with your regular oncology appointments.
Palliative care is all about enhancing your quality of life, including:
- Relieving pain and other symptoms
- Helping you cope with the stress of having cancer
- Helping you understand your condition and your choices for care so you can make decisions that are right for you
- Talking with your family about your illness, your treatment, and your wishes
- Determining what is most important to you
- Preparing for the future
- Helping you complete an advance directive for health care (also called a living will) and durable power of attorney for health care
- Helping you decide if and when it is right to enroll in hospice
If you are an SCCA patient, the team from our Supportive and Palliative Care Service can help improve your ability to tolerate treatment and carry on with everyday life.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Palliative care is available to anyone with cancer regardless of the stage of their disease, the amount of time since their diagnosis, or the type of treatment they are receiving for their cancer.
You can receive supportive and palliative care along with treatment to fight your cancer. The Supportive and Palliative Care team works with your oncology team at SCCA to provide in-depth symptom management and support. Your oncologist continues to make decisions with you about your care.
Palliative care is not the same as hospice care
Hospice care is designed for people who are in the last six months of their life and who are not receiving treatment aimed at curing their disease or prolonging their life. Usually hospice care is provided in your home by your own caregiver (such as a family member) along with a hospice team (specialized nurses, social workers, chaplains, and volunteers) that visits regularly.
The Supportive and Palliative Care team can help you decide if and when it is right to enroll in hospice. We can also assist with referrals to hospice care and provide ongoing coordination of care with the hospice team, if and when this is appropriate.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology recommends that palliative care be integrated into standard oncology care for patients with advanced cancer or significant symptoms at the time of their cancer diagnosis. This recommendation comes from a randomized controlled study that showed improved survival in patients with newly diagnosed metastatic non-small cell lung cancer who received early palliative care along with standard oncologic treatment.1 These patients also had better quality of life and less depression. That’s why at SCCA, if you have advanced cancer or significant symptoms at diagnosis, we want to talk with you about integrating palliative care into your treatment.
Make an appointment
To find out more about SCCA’s Supportive and Palliative Care Service, ask your SCCA physician or contact us. To make an appointment, call us at the phone number below. Appointments are usually available within one to two weeks.
Your first appointment
At your first palliative care appointment, a professional from our Supportive and Palliative Care team will meet with you to explain what palliative care is and what it has to offer you. We’ll discuss your needs, and together we’ll develop a plan that may include one or more of the elements described below.
When you request a referral to Supportive and Palliative Care, you’re asking for help in controlling your pain and other symptoms and challenges associated with your cancer or treatment. Our providers frequently write orders, make referrals, and give suggestions to primary oncologists to help you feel better.
When you need help coping with the stress of having cancer, we are here to provide counseling or refer you to a counselor. We can also teach you strategies to deal with your disease and the side effects of treatment, and we can help find support groups for you.
When it comes to talking with your family members about your disease and what you’d like to have happen in the future, Supportive and Palliative Care professionals are here to help you with those conversations. We can refer you to counselors or the chaplain, and we can also meet with family members in group meetings—in person or on the phone—to ensure everyone understands your illness, what’s important to you during this time, and how you’d like to prepare for the future.
As we discuss your wishes for future health care treatment, we can also help you complete forms that document those wishes – a process called advance care planning. If you already have completed a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care or an advance directive (also called a living will), please bring those to your appointment.
At your first Supportive and Palliative Care appointment, you’ll receive an individualized care plan that will list the various services available to you with contact information for those services. For future Supportive and Palliative Care appointments, you may request that any of these service representatives be present for your appointment.
You may schedule future appointments at any time. We try to make these appointments as convenient for you as possible, often coordinating them with your appointments with your oncologist or your infusion visits. We will communicate with your oncologist about any changes you wish to make to your treatment.
You can learn more about palliative care through these websites: