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July 2023

What Is Supportive Care for Cancer Patients?

Supportive care is exactly what it sounds like: It’s health care that offers an added boost of physical and emotional support after you’ve been diagnosed with cancer.Cancer and its treatment can lead to difficult symptoms and a lot of stress. This kind of care provides relief and comfort when you need it most. Your cancer can be at any stage, from early to advanced. And you can begin supportive care at any time, from diagnosis onward. If you’re currently receiving cancer treatment, supportive care can be added to it.  

Types of caring support

There are several kinds of supportive care. Below are some common options. Your cancer care team might suggest one or more of these options for you based on your specific needs.

  • Symptom management is a big part of supportive care. Cancer and its treatment may cause symptoms such as pain, nausea, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, and trouble sleeping. Various treatments and strategies may be used to ease your discomfort. And that can help empower you to carry on with your life.

  • Nutritional counseling is important, because eating well helps you feel better and stay stronger. Yet cancer and its treatment sometimes cause problems that make it difficult to eat or digest food. A registered dietitian can offer personalized advice on getting all the nutrition you need.

  • Mental health care focuses on the strong emotions that cancer can bring up. In some cases, these feelings give rise to longer-lasting stress, depression, or anxiety. A mental health counselor who understands cancer can help you deal with these issues. At times, medicine may be helpful, too.

  • Integrative approaches, such as meditation classes and music therapy, are sometimes used along with standard cancer treatment. If you’re interested, talk with your cancer care team. They can guide you toward approaches that are safe and have proven to be helpful in certain situations.


Feel better, live better


Supportive care focuses on you as a whole person, not just your cancer. As a result, it can improve your overall quality of life. The health care professionals involved in supportive care work along with your cancer care team to make sure all your needs are met. If you feel like you could use some extra support, talk with your cancer care team. They can refer you to the type of supportive care that’s right for you.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2023
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