Supportive and Palliative Care is about caring for people with a serious or terminal illness as well as providing support for their families and friends.
To help you understand what Supportive and Palliative Care is all about and its important role in the cancer patient journey, below is a link to a short video and some frequently asked questions.
** New ** Patient Education Video: Click here to watch – Understanding Supportive & Palliative Care
Frequently asked questions:
What is supportive and palliative care?
Supportive and palliative care focuses on optimising quality of life by relieving pain and other symptoms. It aims to ease the pain, distress and many other physical, emotional and spiritual problems which present with a serious or terminal illness and encourages the patient to live as well as possible.
Patients and their families can be offered palliative care or supportive symptomatic care in hospital, their treatment centre, in the home and in care facilities.
Supportive and palliative care addresses the emotional, physical, practical, and spiritual issues of cancer. Family members are included in this care.
When is supportive and palliative care used in the treatment of cancer
Supportive care can be provided by all clinicians treating patients with a life limiting illness which includes cancer. It should be initiated early during the active treatment phase to optimise the quality of life and enable patients to continue living as well as possible.
What specialist healthcare can supportive and palliative care offer?
The Supportive and Palliative Care service provides a specialised consultancy service for patients with more complex symptom management needs. It also assists with providing this care and support in the setting of the patient’s and carers choosing.
What practical support can supportive and palliative care offer?
How do you access supportive and palliative care?
By contacting the closest supportive and palliative medicine centre:
• Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre Westmead: 9845 5200
• Blacktown Hospital Cancer Care Centre: 9881 8421
• Mt Druitt Supportive and Palliative Medicine Unit: 9881 1695
• St Joseph’s Hospital Auburn, Palliative Care Unit: 9749 0288
What are the facts about morphine?
Morphine and other opioid medicines are for improving life — not hastening death.
Some people fear that being prescribed opioid medicines means that they’re closer to the end. However, relieving your pain changes your quality of your life — not its length.
All medicines can have side effects. The side effects of opioid medicines are manageable
Sometimes people worry that the side effects of their opioid medicines will be worse than their pain. However, not everybody experiences side effects, and most of the side effects are temporary or manageable. Being aware of the possible side effects will help you cope with them if they occur. Possible side effects of opioid medicines include:
• constipation — can be relieved by taking laxatives regularly
• nausea and vomiting — is often only temporary or can be alleviated with medicines
• drowsiness or confusion — may occur for only a short time after starting treatment or increasing the dose
• dry mouth — may improve with time
• itchy skin — may improve with time.
Tell your doctor promptly about any side effects, their severity and when they occur. Your doctor may be able to alleviate them by changing the dose or the medicine.
Opioid medicines are not addictive when used for pain
When your doctor chooses the right dose of opioids for your pain, you will not become addicted. Addiction only occurs when people have no pain and they abuse opioid medicines.
Opioid medicines don’t stop you from knowing how your illness is progressing
Some people stop taking their pain medicines because they are worried that they will ‘cover up’ the progression of their illness so they won’t know how they’re really going. However, pain medicines will not stop your doctor monitoring the progress of your illness because they have other ways of doing that.
It is often easier to relieve pain in its early stages
Some people only tell their doctor about their pain when it gets bad. However, it is usually easier to manage pain in its early stages, so the sooner you share information about your pain, the more manageable it is likely to be later.
If your pain medicines are not working as well as they used to, they can be adjusted to give you good pain relief again
People often worry that their pain medicines will become less effective. Over time, your body may become used to an opioid medicine. This is called ‘tolerance’. If your medicine is not working as well as it used to, tell your doctor so they can give you good pain relief again by:
• increasing the dose
• prescribing a different medicine
• choosing a different mode of administration
• prescribing a combination of medicines.
Having breakthrough pain doesn’t always mean that your pain management plan is not working
Breakthrough pain is pain that occurs while on a pain management plan. It may mean that your opioid medicines have not been taken as prescribed, or it may mean that your doctor needs to review your plan.
Managing pain can improve many aspects of your life
Some people worry that using opioid medicines will limit their lifestyle. However, it is the pain, not the medicines, that limit your enjoyment of life. Without pain, you will probably feel better, have more energy, have a better appetite, and be more independent.
Research shows that supportive and palliative care improves the quality of life of patients and family members, as well as the physical and emotional symptoms of cancer and its treatment.
A specialist network of supportive and palliative care units across the Sydney West Cancer Network provide specialist multidisciplinary palliative care to patients with malignant or non malignant conditions that require symptom control, pain management, respite and end of life care.
Mt Druitt Supportive and Palliative Care Unit
Mt Druitt Supportive and Palliative care Unit is a 16 bed multidisciplinary inpatient facility, outpatient services and after hours nursing service. The unit provides community support with the availability of home visits by social work, bereavement counsellor and occupational therapist… Read more
Nepean / Blue Mountains / Hawkesbury
Palliative care patients needing specialised supportive and palliative care in Nepean Hospital are treated in ten allocated palliative care beds in the 30-bed cancer ward. These beds are acute medical beds and provide short-term care for relief of suffering and end-of-life care. Multidisciplinary care is provided to the patient and their family… Read more
Blacktown Oncology Unit
Specialist supportive and palliative care medical and nursing consultation is available to patients suffering from malignant and non-malignant conditions in Blacktown Hospital and the Blacktown Local Government Area. Specialist medical and nursing outpatient clinics are conducted at Blacktown Cancer Care Centre inpatient care is provided from Mt Druitt Supportive and Palliative Care Unit.
A new cancer centre is currently being built and is expected to open early 2015. It will include a 4-bed Supportive and Palliative Care Unit as well as outpatient facilities… Read more
St Josephs Hospital Auburn
St Camillus unit is a 21 bed supportive and palliative care unit with 3 private rooms, 4 single rooms, one 2 bedded room and three 4 bedded rooms.
Supportive and Palliative care patients are admitted for respite care, symptom management and end of life care i.e. for patients needing specialist supportive and palliative care services. It is a short term facility and does not offer long term care… Read more