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Supportive Care

Nurse Kimberly Chow

At Memorial Sloan Kettering, we are focused on all aspects of comprehensive cancer care. This means the most-advanced treatments for cancer along with supportive and palliative care. Supportive care tends to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs that come up during and after cancer treatment.

Supportive care is part of the attention we give to every patient who is treated for cancer at MSK, no matter what their stage of disease or prognosis.

The Supportive Care Service provides many kinds of care for our patients. We use drugs and procedures to ease pain, nausea, fatigue, and other symptoms. We help patients cope with any anxiety, depression, or other emotions surrounding a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Our supportive care and oncology teams also help patients make treatment decisions to ensure that the care they receive matches their personal priorities and values.

Pain Management

At MSK, our doctors and nurses are committed to relieving suffering and improving the quality of life for our patients. We offer treatments to help control and manage pain throughout the course of cancer treatment.

Learn more about how we help manage pain. »

In addition, our interfaith Chaplaincy Service can be a source of comfort and help patients face feelings of spiritual distress.

We emphasize the importance of the supportive services that are part of the care at MSK from the very first appointment. All of our oncology teams receive training in supportive care from the experts on our Supportive Care Service.

Members of the supportive care team help our oncology doctors and nurses recognize when patients may need extra support and coach them on how to provide that care. Asking patients about their symptoms, how they are feeling, and other questions to see if they need extra support is an ongoing component of our care. This happens whether patients are admitted to the hospital or are receiving outpatient treatment. Patients who have particular needs may be referred to a member of the Supportive Care Service or to one of our pain specialists.

Team Approach to Supportive and Palliative Care

Our supportive care team is focused on:

  • relieving symptoms, including pain, nausea, and fatigue
  • matching treatment with a patient’s values, goals, and preferences
  • supporting our patients’ families and other caregivers
  • smoothing transitions across settings of care, including moving from the inpatient to the outpatient setting

We believe that supportive care is fully compatible with the most sophisticated and aggressive treatments for cancer. Our goal is to help our patients live the best lives they can for as long as they can, from diagnosis through treatment and beyond.

Members of our team work with virtually all of the oncology services at MSK in caring for patients with any type of cancer. We provide support for patients who may require treatment in intensive care, as well as for the family members of these patients. We also consult with cancer care teams on assisting patients who are able to return home after being in the hospital.

If it is appropriate and necessary, we work closely with doctors and nurses, case managers, and hospice partners to arrange hospice care for our patients.