Palliative Care & Pain Management
The goal of the Palliative Care Program at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center is to help patients achieve the highest-possible quality of life throughout every stage of illness. The palliative care team applies a wide variety of clinical techniques to address medical, emotional and social needs important to patients and their families.
While all doctors and nurses at Lombardi are dedicated to helping patients achieve their optimal quality of life, the palliative care team often is consulted when a specialized assessment is needed to complement primary clinical care. Although medical and symptom-related issues are the most obvious, other cancer-related problems also can arise. The team assesses the physical, psychological, spiritual and social issues that can contribute to distress. In addition, it seeks to treat, minimize and-whenever possible-prevent these problems.
Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center patients are encouraged to use the Palliative Care Program at any point throughout their illness, whether the primary goal of their therapy is to seek a cure or to simply provide comfort.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- What Is Palliative Care?
- Who Is on the Lombardi Palliative Care Team?
- Is Palliative Care the Same as Hospice Care?
- How Does the Program Work?
- Where Can I Get More Information?
- How Can I Support the Program?
What Is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is a new medical and nursing specialty devoted to relieving pain and providing physical, psychological, and spiritual comfort to patients who have complex or challenging problems associated with serious illness.
Palliative treatments can be given at the same time as treatments directed against cancer. Palliative care physicians work closely with oncologists to assess the role of pain-relieving radiation or chemotherapy. Other techniques that may be used are counseling and emotional support, physical therapy and relaxation techniques.
Examples of the types of symptoms and problems for which patients are referred to the palliative care program include:
- loss of appetite
One of the most common concerns for cancer patients is pain management. By using special expertise in pain management, Lombardi's palliative care team aims to provide a combination of medications to relieve pain without overly sedating the patient.
Who Is on the Lombardi Palliative Care Team?
Lombardi's palliative care team consists of specialty-trained doctors, an advanced practice nurse and a fellow. The team works collaboratively with the patient's established medical care team. Because the palliative care team works so closely with the patient's primary medical team, a referral is required. The team also coordinates with nursing services in the community to share expertise.
Other staff members from Lombardi and Georgetown University collaborate with and support the palliative care team, which links these experts for the patient's benefit:
- medical and radiation oncology
- pastoral care
- social work
The Palliative Care Program conducts research in a number of areas and works in collaboration with others in the cancer center--oftentimes the oncologists--to undertake this research. Interests include research involving pain and symptom management, the needs of caregivers, and the impact of palliative care education and system-based change on quality of care and quality of life. For further details about this aspect of the palliative care program please contact (202) 444-1781.
Is Palliative Care the Same as Hospice Care?
The Palliative Care Program at Lombardi is unusual in that it encourages patients to work with the program throughout their illness to achieve and maintain the highest possible quality of life and to live fully each day. The primary function of hospice care is to help patients be pain free and to live with dignity towards the end of life.
How Does the Program Work?
If you think you or a family member could benefit from the special expertise of the Palliative Care Program, discuss it first with your physician, nurse practitioner or nurse case manager. Your physician will contact the palliative care team and the palliative care nurse will contact you to set up a first visit.
The relationship between the palliative care team and the patient is flexible. The individualized care plan and recommendations may change as the patient's needs change. For example, a one-time visit may be all that is required to address a patient's or family's concern. For a patient with ongoing needs, a more intensified schedule of follow-up may be required. Follow-up care is always closely coordinated with the patient's established care team.
Inpatient visits: Patients are seen in the hospital. The palliative care team is actively involved in planning the patient's discharge to ensure that proper support is in place for the patient and family. The doctor who is providing inpatient care can facilitate a referral.
Outpatient care: Outpatients can be seen by the palliative care team on a one-time basis to address a particular problem, or on an ongoing basis to treat complex symptoms and to provide consistent support to the patient and family during various stages of illness. A referral from the patient's doctor is needed.
Home care: The palliative care team can coordinate with community-based providers, such as home or hospice care. The team aims to foster a proactive approach to complex care issues, and to maintain the link between the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and the home.
Most health insurance policies at least partially cover the costs of palliative care. The palliative care team members can work with you to investigate your coverage.
Where Can I Get More Information?
Patients should ask their physician or nurse for more information. Questions also can be directed to the Palliative Care Program at (202) 444-1781.
How Can I Support the Program?
The Palliative Care Program is supported in large part by generous gifts from individuals, foundations and corporations. Philanthropic contributions make it possible to sustain the quality and scope of the program, and to create new initiatives in response to the needs of patients and their families. If you would like to help support the Palliative Care Program, please make your contribution payable to the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center (designate your gift for the Palliative Care Program) and send it to:
Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center
Research Building E501
3970 Reservoir Road NW
Washington, DC 20057-1468
For further information, call the Development Office at (202) 687-2222.