As a hospice and palliative care specialist, I see the dedication of our dietitian as she arranges essential supplies and counsels our patients on nutritional needs during critical times of their cancer treatments. I see the creativity of our social workers and financial counselors who develop plans to secure resources and support for patients and their families. I see the compassion of our nurses who carefully counsel patients on pain or nausea medications. I see the personal touch as our doctors listen to the hopes and goals of our patients and align care plans with those wishes. I see the relief of our patients as they learn what palliative or supportive care really means.
You may be wondering, “What is supportive care (aka palliative care)?” It is a medical approach that focuses on the prevention and relief of physical, psychological and spiritual suffering that may occur with a critical illness such as cancer, heart disease, kidney disease or other medical conditions. Palliative care is often mistaken for hospice care, as there are many shared ideals and approaches. Hospice is a small subset within palliative. Palliative care is an added support team that is available at any stage of illness, from the time of diagnosis, providing benefits along with disease treatments.
Here at UT Health San Antonio, palliative care is available for both inpatients and outpatients. These specially trained teams are focused on what is most important to the patient to ensure they are as comfortable and as functional as possible for as long as possible. UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center hosts the Supportive Cancer Care Clinic that consists of an interdisciplinary team dedicated to easing cancer treatment-related symptoms to improve the quality of life for both patients and families throughout the disease course. Also, the Supportive Cancer Care Clinic helps patients and families understand the natural disease process, consider cancer treatment options and cope with changes in their health.
Regardless of the name by which you call palliative or supportive care, I hope you can see the relief that is possible for patients as they face the consequences of serious illness in their day to day lives.
Written by Sherri Cervantez, M.D.
To learn more about our team of experts, visit UTHealthsaMDAnderson.org, or call 210-450-1000.