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Diseases & Conditions

Palliative Care

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is a special type of medical care that focuses on treatment of the symptoms people may have when they are living with a chronic (long-standing) illness, such as cancer or heart failure. It is often compared to the hospice care that is offered to terminally ill people.

In palliative care, the goal is to provide the best quality of life possible—even in cases before someone becomes terminally ill. Palliative care can be used during a time that a person is getting treatment for a disease as well as during a time that there is no more useful treatment for the disease.

What are the features of palliative care?

Palliative care looks at all symptoms, including physical, emotional, and spiritual problems. Palliative care deals with the treatment of problems including pain, nausea, loss of appetite, depression, and fatigue.

Another key feature of palliative care is its focus on the patient as well as the family. Chronic illness puts special stress on families, and having support can be very helpful. Talking about and planning for the future can help prepare a person and the person’s family to make the best choices for everyone involved.

Where is palliative care provided?

Palliative care is being offered in more and more hospitals throughout the country. It may also be available in outpatient clinic or home settings. Hospice care is a special form of palliative care offered to those who may have less than six months to live. To find physicians certified in Palliative Medicine, go to the Web site for the American Board of Hospice and Palliative Medicine at

What are the benefits of palliative care?

High-quality palliative care can make the difference between a comfortable existence and one that involves much suffering. There is no need for patients to suffer from shortness of breath, uncontrolled pain, or nausea. Palliative care also can help a patient’s loved ones begin to deal with the issues of grief and bereavement.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 8/13/08...#12078