Most nurses already know and have abundant experience with patients in palliative care. Recently, a National Cancer Institute (NCI) study confirmed that patients who receive early palliative care and standard treatment for advanced cancer have a better quality of life than those patients who do not receive the same interventions. Palliative care has been defined through symptom management, setting goals of care, and providing a variety of support from diagnosis throughout the survivor’s treatment.

“This was a well-conducted study that builds on the earlier work,” Diane St. Germain, RN, MS, of NCI’s Division of Cancer Prevention said. “It is important to determine the impact of early palliative care in additional types of cancer.” 

“Palliative care helps individuals stay connected with the activities they care about,” Joseph Greer, PhD, of Massachusetts General Hospital said. Greer presented the findings of the study at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Symposium in San Francisco. The results noted that a solid palliative care team is inclusive and has many providers actively engaging with the patient. 

“A diagnosis of cancer is never easy for patients, so it is promising that we now have a strategy of early palliative care that can help patients cope while improving their quality of life,” Andrew S. Epstein, MD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center noted. He added, “Findings such as these continue to expand and build on the benefits of integrating palliative care into the cancer care continuum.”

Oncology nurses are integral members in the healthcare team and provide palliative care plans for patients with cancer. This study further concludes the importance of including palliative care during the cancer care continuum.