Palliative Care

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illness. This type of care focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. Palliative care also treats emotional, social, practical, and spiritual problems that illnesses can bring up. The goal is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and the family.

Who gives palliative care?

Palliative care is generally an interdisciplinary team approach. Any health care provider may provide palliative care by addressing the side effects and emotional aspects of cancer. There are health care providers, like physicians and nurses, who are specially trained in palliative care and work with, not in place of, your primary oncology team. A palliative care team may also include social workers, pharmacists, registered dietitians, chaplains, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and therapists.

When is palliative care used in cancer care?

Palliative care is incorporated to promote the best quality of life (QOL) throughout a patient’s bladder cancer experience. Palliative care can be given at the same time as treatments meant to cure or treat the disease. A patient can receive palliative care when bladder cancer is diagnosed, throughout treatment, during follow-up, and at the end of life. It can help to lower the burden of some symptoms of disease or side effects of treatments. 

Where is palliative care received?

Palliative care is offered at many cancer centers, clinics, inpatient units at hospitals, and at home.  

What are some issues faced by bladder cancer patients that can be addressed in palliative care?

All patients are unique and have specific needs. The following list provides examples and is not exhaustive:

  1. Physical

a. Pain or other complications from the cancer itself, treatments or surgery

b. Nausea/vomiting during and after chemotherapy or other treatments

c. Fatigue during BCG or other intravesical treatments, radiation, or during chemotherapy or immunotherapy

d. Sexual problems caused by surgery or other treatments

e. Nutritional status before, during and after cancer therapies or surgery

2. Emotional

a. Supportive care for feelings of depression, anxiety, or fear for patients and their families

b. Sadness about body changes with post-surgery urinary diversion management

c. Talking to children and other loved ones about cancer

3. Spiritual

a. Incorporate spiritual care according to patient/family needs, values, beliefs and culture background

4. Other

a. Questions about legal forms such as advanced directives and health care power of attorney

Is palliative care the same as hospice?

No. This is a common misconception about palliative care. Palliative care is offered much earlier in the disease process. While all of hospice is palliative care, not all of palliative care is hospice. Patients can be transitioned to hospice once cancer treatments are no longer controlling their disease, therefore receiving palliative care only. While patients are still receiving cancer treatment, they may receive palliative care in addition to their cancer treatments.

Myths about palliative care

1. If I get palliative care, that means I can’t have any more cancer treatment: FALSE.

Incorporating palliative care into your cancer care has resulted in higher patient satisfaction. If your cancer doctor refers you to a palliative care specialist, they will work together to optimize your quality of life.

2. I don’t have pain, so I can’t get palliative care: FALSE.

Palliative care addresses much more than just pain. Examples of issues that are addressed in palliative care include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, appetite loss, sleeping problems, depression, anxiety, and much more.

3. I didn’t get chemotherapy for my bladder cancer, so I can’t get palliative care: FALSE.

Some patients experience bad bladder symptoms after treatments like BCG or radiation, and pain or bowel problems after surgery. Palliative care can be used for these types of problems, too.

Click here to read our Get the Facts About Palliative Care (PDF) that covers what to expect before, during, and after this treatment. Watch this webinar with Dr. Elizabeth Wulff-Birchfield from the University of Washington discussing how palliative care is used in treating bladder cancer.

For additional information about palliative care, visit:

Get Palliative Care

Prepare for Your Care


Information and services provided by the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) are for informational purposes only. The information and services are not intended to be substitutes for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are ill, or suspect that you are ill, seek professional medical attention immediately! BCAN does not recommend or endorse any specific physicians, treatments, procedures or products even though they may be mentioned on this site.