Youth cancer types of cancer care options
Treatment can be aimed at:
- Remission: partial or complete removal of cancer from your body
- Cure: completely removing or destroying all cancer cells
- Control: stopping or slowing down the multiplication of cells
- Palliation: care for people who are living with an eventually fatal condition. The goal is to keep people living the best quality of life possible, so they can make the most of their time.
What is supportive care?
Supportive care is an overall term, which describes the services that can help people living with cancer, cancer survivors, and their loved ones. Examples of supportive care include
- controlling symptoms (like nausea/vomiting)
- services to help you maintain your mental health
- support from not-for-profit organisations (like CanTeen or the Leukaemia Foundation)
- rehabilitation (helping people get their best physical function)
- spiritual care
- peer support
- accommodation support
- limited financial assistance for living with cancer.
What is complementary care?
Complementary therapies promote well-being and are often used in conjunction with conventional therapies. They may not cure cancer on their own, but they can certainly help you cope with treatment side effects and improve overall quality of life.
Complementary therapies include:
- music therapy
- tai chi
Make sure you tell your doctor and your pharmacist, if you are taking any complementary medicines or special sports supplements. Some of these can interact with your chemotherapy and make you pretty sick.
What is palliative care?
This is holistic care, provided for people who are living with, and dying from, an eventually fatal condition. The primary goal is maximising the quality of life. It's care that’s designed to help you “make the most” of the time that’s left.
Improving the quality of life
Palliative care is aimed at improving the quality of life for you and the rest of your family by looking at your physical, practical, emotional and spiritual needs. It’s not about ending life early (this is euthanasia and is illegal in Australia) and it’s not about prolonging life at all costs.
How long does it last?
You can receive palliative care for as little as a week or for a year or more. It will depend on when you get referred to the palliative care team. The earlier the referral is made the better your symptoms can be managed and all of your needs looked at.
Referral to palliative care
Just because you're receiving palliative care doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to die soon. However being referred to palliative care services does mean that the cancer cannot be cured and that you will die from the disease at some stage. Being referred to palliative care can be a tough time for you and your family but there are lots of professional people to support you and make sure that any pain or symptoms you may have are well controlled.
Who is involved?
The palliative care team is made up of the following people who deal with all aspects of the patient's care:
Palliative care specialists: Doctors who help treat pain, nausea and other symptoms. They communicate your cancer doctor and the local doctor so that treatment is coordinated.
Nurses: They work closely with the Youth Cancer Service, to coordinate you care. They are expert in helping you with symptoms like nausea and pain. If you want to stay at home, rather than come to hospital, they can help you do that in a safe way.
Bereavement counsellors and Social workers: They provide counselling, and give you and your family emotional support. They can also connect you and your family with other services including financial assistance.
Psychologist / counsellor: They give you and your family the chance to talk about your fears and work through your feelings. They teach you strategies to handle anxiety and exercises to help with emotional and physical pain.
Family doctor: They look after your day to day health issues if you are at home, and liaises with the nurse and/or specialist about your ongoing care.
Being at home
Many people would like to be at home, rather than in a hospital, for as much time as possible. If the goal is to make you comfortable, then keeping you at home might be part of that goal. The palliative care team can help set you up at home with things you might need, like special nursing care or pain relief. Some people even choose to die at home, without going to hospital at all.
Some people choose to go to a hospice, which is like a blend of being in a hospital, and being at home. The doctors, nurses and counsellors who work in a hospice are specialised in caring for people who are nearing the end of their life. They work as a team to help keep people comfortable and give them as much social and emotional support as possible.