We partnered with GetPalliativeCare.org and Dr. Andrew Esch, MD, MBA, a medical education consultant to the Center to Advance Palliative Care, for a free webinar discussing how to manage symptoms and side effects of lung cancer and improve quality of life through palliative care. Here’s what you need to know!

Treating the pain, symptoms and stress of lung cancer and its aftermath is just as important as treating lung cancer.

While doctors are focused on curing your cancer, your body and mind are having their own experience of pain, anxiety, fear, nausea, a lots more! It’s important that your medical team not only recognizes what you are going through, but addresses these issues on a personal level. This is where palliative care comes into play.

Yes, the goal is to treat and cure your cancer, but it’s also important to maintain your quality of life while going through the treatment process. This requires good coordination of care between each doctor on your healthcare team and between each doctor and you.

In the medical field, we tend to be technology and disease driven, when we really should be focusing on the person as a whole – recognizing the patient’s health problems as they see them, not as the doctor sees them. Our goal is to facilitate appropriate care for what people need in the context of what they are experiencing.

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with a serious illness with the goal of improving life for the patient and the family. Palliative care does not require you to be a specific age or stage in your lung cancer journey.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) 2017 guidelines for oncologists recommend palliative care early in the disease, concurrent with active treatment. The two can work hand-in-hand and result in better outcomes and improved quality of life.

Palliative care has shown to extend survival with a high quality of life.

This is not an “OR,” it is an “AND” – improve quality of life, but also help improve treatment.

To learn more about palliative care, how to get it and how to talk to your doctor about it, visit getpalliativecare.org.


Q&A with Dr. Esch

Can you contact the palliative care doctor directly?
Yes, but have the discussion with your oncologist first because the coordination of care is so important. If there is a barrier with your oncologist, you absolutely can reach out to the palliative care team who will reach out to the oncologist to coordinate.

Is a referral from your oncologist required to see a palliative care specialist? Yes, a referral is the key to starting the relationship.

What is the best way to convince a patient to consider palliative care?
There is no risk. Get the referral and give it a try. Meet with the team and see how you feel about the visit. A good palliative care team will walk you through the pros and cons and what the options are for medication, etc.

How is palliative care paid for? You see a team of people at your visit, more than just one doctor (nurses, social worker, Chaplin, etc.). The doctor will charge your visit to your insurance, just like a regular doctor’s visit, although you are getting so much more than that.

How can I convince my oncologist that I need a palliative care team? They say I don’t need it until the end of the process.
Unfortunately this is common. Empower yourself with knowledge and how to talk with your doctor about it. If that’s still not working, reach out to your local palliative team and let them know the situation.

What is the difference between palliative care and hospice?
Palliative care is not hospice. A patient gets admitted to hospice based on their prognosis (6 months or less to live), while palliative care is about quality of life and need. It is the difference of need-based vs prognosis-based.

Can I get palliative care for treatment side effects even if I am no longer on treatment?
Palliative care goes beyond when people are done with treatment; just because you are out of treatment does not mean everything is back to normal. Palliative care teams are a great resource for that; it doesn’t end when treatment ends.

How often do you meet with your palliative care team?
As much as needed. Sometimes it is just as important to get back to living your life, so I tend to tell patients “come back when you need me.”

Does palliative care cover the caregiver needs?
Yes, the caregiver is such a key part of all of this. The palliative care team will get to know both the patient and the caregiving side (offering resources, support groups, etc.). If the caregiver breaks down, so does the patient, so it’s critical that the caregiver is taking care of themselves.


Dr. Esch is a medical education consultant to the Center to Advance Palliative Care. A palliative care specialist, Dr. Esch focuses on improving the quality of life for patients and their families as they face serious illness.  Dr. Esch earned his medical degree from the University of Buffalo