Leonard Berry, Texas A&M University
Robyn Castellani, Texas A&M University
Brad Stuart, Texas A&M University

Palliative care provides relief from the physical and emotional suffering associated with serious illness. It offers an extra layer of support to patients, family caregivers, and treating clinicians. When used early in the disease trajectory, palliative care improves patient care experience and quality of life, reduces use and costs of medical services, helps family caregivers, and may even extend patient survival. Although use of palliative care is increasing, most patients receive the service later in the disease stage or not at all; for all of its advantages, palliative care remains underused and misunderstood. Nine of 10 adults in the United States have little or no knowledge of palliative care. However, with education the numbers reverse, with nine of 10 patients indicating that they would be likely to use it. This lack of understanding is not limited to patients. Some physicians use palliative care only if curative treatment fails because they equate it with hospice. Others believe they must provide this kind of care themselves, or they fear that patients will lose hope or feel abandoned if palliative care is recommended. Still more physicians are unaware that their own institutions offer it. Why is palliative care so poorly understood? And what can we do about it?

The Branding of Palliative Care, Journal of Oncology Practice, January 2016, pp. 48-50.