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Supportive care in oncology Learning Zone

Transcript: What is supportive care in cancer?

Last updated:20th May 2024
Published:20th May 2024

Dr Matti Aapro

All transcripts are created from interview footage and directly reflect the content of the interview at the time. The content is that of the speaker and is not adjusted by Medthority.


Many years ago, the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer, MASCC, had actually a retreat in which for several hours, we discussed what do we define as supportive care, compared to another word that is often used, which is palliative care. There are differences, but these differences are often related to the way care is organised in a country. And so, the wording itself is not that important in the perspective of, for example, of the ESMO position paper that was published a few years ago, looking at supportive and palliative care, where we clearly define the fact that there is a continuum the patient's care. And, then the wording used is not that important, because it's the patient who is important, and it's what we can do for the patient, no matter what we call it.
Overall, supportive care is everything that we can do around the active treatment of the patient's tumour, and very importantly, after this treatment, either because the treatment has to be stopped because it failed, or because fortunately, things went well, but the patient still needs support. And, it's not only the patient, it's the caregiver. We should never forget that the patients need not only the healthcare providers, but they need the caregivers around them, family very often, or friends, or family and friends, and this is very, very important. And, supportive care goes from the use of drugs, or clinical approaches, because of some side effects, or also supportive care is part of the support that we could, and should, provide in our cancer centres for the patients in terms of social care. Because, as you know, there can be a huge impact on the social situation of the patient, depending again on the health system of the country, or the region in which the patient lives. So, supportive care is a lot. It's one name for a lot of actions that we can, and we should do when we are taking care of patients with cancer, or after cancer.