This year, the American Society of Clinical Oncology — the world’s leading oncology organization — recommended palliative care for everyone with advanced cancer at the time of diagnosis and while receiving treatment.

Palliative care manages cancer-related symptoms and side effects from treatment. It is given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease. Most insurance companies cover it.

CHP delivers palliative care services in patient’s homes throughout northwest and west central Ohio.

By next year, 693,000 people in the United States will have advanced breast, prostate, lung, colorectal, bladder, or skin cancer. Typically, advanced cancers spread to other parts of the body, and may cause symptoms or are difficult to cure.

Palliative care is not hospice

While related, palliative care is different from hospice and patients may continue curative treatments. Oncologists said starting palliative care when a diagnosis is made may make it easier for patients to stay on their treatment course.

“What I’m excited to see is that these guidelines are taking a step back and thinking about [palliative care] from the time of diagnosis,” said Dr. Arif Kamal, chief patient officer for the American Cancer Society and an associate professor at Duke University specializing in oncology and palliative care. “It should be used in areas to help people stay on treatment, such as in clinical trials or hematologic malignancies.”

Things to know about palliative care:

1. Palliative care can help you live better and longer. “Many people are surprised to hear research shows early palliative care involvement not only improves quality of life but also prolongs survival,” said Dr. Allison Chang, an oncologist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

2. Palliative care puts patients in control of their care. Palliative care teams work closely with a patient’s oncologist throughout their cancer journey.

3. Palliative care supports you and those who matter most. “Palliative care is deliberate in seeing, recognizing, and assessing the needs of caregivers… [who] are such an important part of the clinical team,” said Kamal.

4. Palliative care increases your time at home or where you want to be. Palliative services can help with fatigue and anxiety for those going through chemotherapy so they can manage and feel more energy to do the things they need to do.

5. Palliative care isn’t just for people with cancer.  Anyone with a serious illness can benefit from palliative care – heart disease, kidney failure, COPD, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and more.

Kamal recommends asking your doctor “Could the extra support of a palliative care team be helpful to me?” He finds asking is often enough for doctors to make a referral.

Palliative care is no longer something that’s “nice to have. It’s a have to have,” said Kamal.