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Palliative care for lung cancer

Palliative care doesn't treat the lung cancer itself, but it can help to reduce symptoms such as pain, fatigue and emotional issues.

Palliative care may be recommended if treatment options have been exhausted.

Palliative care may be given at home, in a hospital if home care is not possible, or in a hospice.

Whenever possible, the transition to palliative care should be planned in advance.

Planning should begin with a conversation between the patient, someone representing the patient, particularly if the patient is too ill to be involved, and the doctor.

During these meetings likely outcomes, medical issues, and any fears or uncertainties can be discussed.

Palliative care covers the management of a broad range of issues, from physical and psychological problems to social and spiritual issues. Pain relief and help for shortness of breath are often important targets in palliative care for lung cancer, but there may also be treatments for anxiety, nausea and other physical symptoms.

Breathlessness will be treated with oxygen and medication such as opioids, anxiety-relieving drugs, and sometimes high-dose steroids. A tube may be put into the chest to drain off excessive fluid if this is causing the breathlessness, while laser treatments may be used to open blocked airways. Physiotherapy can help with breathing techniques and positioning.

Pain management includes anti-inflammatory medications and opioids. The patient is encouraged to participate in determining doses of the pain medication, because the amount needed to block pain will vary from day to day.

Other symptoms, such as anxiety, lack of sleep, and depression, are treated with appropriate medications and, in some cases, complementary therapies.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on May 20, 2016

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