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Palliative Care

happy couple leaving tennis court

If you have a serious or life-limiting illness, you may benefit from palliative care. This is a medical specialty that aims to relieve suffering and make sure your health care is comprehensive and compassionate. Having a palliative care provider as part of your medical team gives you an added layer of support, in addition to your regular treatment. Research shows that palliative care can benefit a patient's health and well-being, and may help to prolong life.

Family and caregivers also benefit from palliative care. Counseling and caregiver support are part of our services.

What Is Palliative Care?

The goal of palliative care is to improve the quality of life of those with serious illness. It is not the same as hospice care or end-of-life care. Although all of these types of care do focus on comfort and support, palliative care often begins at diagnosis and continues during treatment and beyond.

Palliative care is sometimes called "supportive care" because it aims to prevent or treat, as early as possible, the symptoms and side effects of a disease and its treatment. Palliative care also addresses emotional and spiritual issues.

Palliative care does not mean that you have to give up any other medications or treatments. Our palliative care providers work with your other doctors to help you achieve your best quality of life throughout treatment. You will continue to receive care from your regular doctors.

Who Should Consider Palliative Care and When?

Palliative care appointments are available to UC San Diego Health patients who have been diagnosed with a serious medical condition. This could include:

  • Cancer
  • Heart failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Neurological illnesses (see Neuro-Palliative Care)
  • Other serious or life-limiting illnesses

We encourage patients to see us early in their treatment. In fact, many people seek palliative care soon after they have been diagnosed with a serious illness.

Palliative Care Services

Palliative care can help :

  • Manage pain and other symptoms
  • Introduce non-drug options for pain management
  • Clarify your treatment plan or understand your options
  • Provide counseling and support for you or your family, caregivers or friends
  • Provide social work support
  • Provide spiritual support

Palliative Care Team

Our team of palliative care experts includes physicians, psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, chaplains and social workers. We are one of the busiest and most well staffed palliative care teams in the country. Some of our team members specialize in both palliative care and specific types of illnesses, including cancer, neurological diseases, or kidney disease. Meet some of our team members.

How to Prepare for Your Palliative Care Visit

You may see the palliative care team during a hospital stay, or you may meet a palliative care provider during a clinic visit. If you would like to be referred to a palliative care provider for a clinic visit, please ask your care team for a referral. At your first visit, we recommend you bring a list of your current medications and consider having a family member come along to help take notes.

Doris A. Howell Consult Teams

Dr. Doris Howell

At UC San Diego Health, our palliative care teams are officially named after Dr. Doris Howell, a pediatric oncologist who devoted her life to caring for patients and training the next generation of doctors in San Diego. Dr. Howell, who passed away in 2018 at age 95, was proud to see the palliative care program thrive and serve people throughout UC San Diego Health.

Appointments & Referrals

  • 858-534-9061

Meet Our Specialists

Support Our Program

Your financial gift to the Palliative Care Excellence Fund will go directly to supporting the palliative care program, faculty and staff

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