Palliative Care for Ovarian Cancer

When people hear the term “palliative care”, they often misunderstand it as hospice care. While these types of care share some features and may be used together, they are not the same.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is given to improve quality of life in those who have a serious illness, disease, or life-threatening condition. It is also sometimes called supportive care, comfort care, or symptom management.1

Palliative care focuses on preventing and treating symptoms of the condition and side effects of treatment, often as soon as possible. It also addresses the mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being of the person going through treatment. The focus is on treating the person as a whole, not just their disease.1

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Palliative care can be given in many different settings. This includes a hospital or cancer center, a rehabilitation center, a nursing home, outpatient clinics, or at home.

Unlike hospice care, palliative can be given alongside curative treatment. You do not need to stop any kind of cancer treatment to also get palliative care. It can begin from the time you are initially diagnosed and go for however long you need it.2

While there are doctors who are palliative care specialists, a palliative care team may include various professionals. Your team may include:

  • Social workers
  • Pharmacists
  • Registered dietitians
  • Nurses
  • Chaplains
  • Psychologists
  • Other kinds of therapists

What types of issues does palliative care address?

Palliative care can help address many different kinds of symptoms and issues you and your loved one might be facing with advanced ovarian cancer. These may include:1

  • Physical issues
    • Pain, fatigue, vomiting, nausea, shortness of breath, trouble sleeping
  • Emotional issues
    • Depression, anxiety, fear, questions or concerns you have, and any other emotions you may feel
  • Spiritual issues
    • You may be struggling to hold onto your faith, have spiritual questions, or want to explore your faith further
  • Caregiver needs
    • Not having enough social support
    • Worries about how to care for a loved one while maintaining house and work
    • Questions about how to address medical concerns
    • Dealing with the emotional aspects of caregiving
  • Practical needs
    • Help with insurance questions, employment concerns, and financial questions
    • Discuss goals of care, including any advance directives
    • Help communicate with members of the healthcare team

Palliative care for ovarian cancer symptoms

In advanced cancers, quality of life is often significantly impacted by symptoms.3

Ovarian cancer, which is usually at an advanced stage at diagnosis, can have many physical symptoms that impact the quality of life and emotional health. Getting palliative care as soon as possible after your diagnosis can help you and your treatment team work together to manage symptoms that arise and give you a better quality of life.3

Things to consider

Many people may confuse palliative care with hospice care and see it as an end-of-life care option only. This is not the case.

Ask your doctor and treatment team about using the palliative care services or team your care center has, right from diagnosis. This way, they can help address symptoms as they come up, side effects from treatment, and any other concerns or questions you might have about your cancer and its impact on various aspects of your life.

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Written by: Jaime Rochelle Herndon | Last reviewed: May 2021