Care for you, not just the cancer.
Palliative care is health care that focuses on a patient’s overall health and helps to improve their quality of life during traditional cancer treatment. The goal of palliative care is to relieve the symptoms of cancer at any point during treatment, regardless of prognosis.
Palliative care can help patients with symptoms caused by their cancer or its treatment including nausea, pain, and fatigue, as well as emotional, spiritual, and physical health. At end of life, palliative care promotes comfort when aggressive treatment is no longer working.
Palliative care is provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses, social workers, spiritual counselors, and other specialists who work to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment.
Communicating with Your Health Care Provider
Cancer can be overwhelming. It can be easy for you to lose focus and even your train of thought when seeing a doctor. Having clear communication with your doctor can help you to share your goals for treatment and understand your treatment options.
You can plan ahead for conversations with your health care provider with a conversation card. Just jot these conversation starters down on a piece of paper to help guide your conversation. You may even want to write notes before your appointment, so you don’t forget any of the details.
- I would like to talk about…
- It is important to me because…
- It might help you to know…
- I hope this conversation leads to…
- I’m nervous this conversation will lead to…
Cancer treatment is also no longer a one-size-fits-all solution. The more your cancer care team knows about you, your lifestyle, and your goals for treatment, the better they can create a treatment plan that works for you.
Answer these four “reflection questions” on a regular basis and share the questions and answers with your care team.
- What is one non-medical thing about your life that you think your doctor should know?
- What is one thing your doctor is asking you to do for your health that is helping you feel better?
- What is one thing your doctor is asking you to do for your health that feels like a burden or feels harder than it should?
- Where do you find the most joy in your life?
Planning Ahead: Advance Directives and POLST
There are many things in life that are out of your hands. But there are important things in life that you can control. Advance planning for your medical wishes can help you to talk about your medical wishes with your family and friends, and with your cancer care team. When planning for your care there are two main things to document. Here, we’ll share information about Advance Directives and Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST).
An advance directive, also known as a living will, is a legal document in which you can specify what actions should be taken for your health if you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself because of your cancer or another illness. In an advance directive you can document how you want your doctor to proceed when it comes to life support and what type of care you would and would not like provided. In some instances you can also designate a health care proxy, or someone that you choose to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself.
There are a number of resources available to create your own advance directives. One quality online resource is Five Wishes, which meets the legal requirements for an advance directive in Nevada.
POLST is a medical order that states what kind of medical treatment you want toward the end of your life or in a medical crisis. This document must be completed with assistance from a health care provider (doctor, physician assistant, or advance practice registered nurse) that can translate your medical wishes into medical orders, and is signed by both you and your provider. Unlike an advance directive, the POLST is an actual medical order that travels with you wherever you receive care so emergency medical services are able to honor the orders on the POLST. Learn more about Nevada POLST and discuss your options with your cancer care team.
Learn more about advance care planning in Nevada with this PDF download from Nevada's Division of Health Care Financing and Policy, or visit their website here.