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The importance of supportive care for patients with cancer

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Supportive care encompasses managing symptoms and side effects before, during and after cancer treatment

Supportive care involves the management of the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of treatment across the whole course of cancer, from diagnosis through treatment to survivorship and end-of-life care. Cancer requires multimodality treatment, including chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, each of which can be used to palliate symptoms but may also have adverse effects that need managing. Likewise, supportive care needs multidisciplinary team support, including cancer specialist clinicians, nurses, pharmacists and allied health practitioners in addition to palliative care practitioners.

Breakthroughs in cancer treatment are widely heralded but less prominence is given to the significant advances made in supportive care. With a strapline of “supportive care makes excellent cancer care possible”, the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC) will celebrate 25 years of promoting these advances at its scientific meeting in Adelaide in June 2016. Good supportive care enables the delivery of optimal therapy and improves a patient’s quality of life. Where has the most progress been made?

Broadening the spectrum of treatable side effects

Febrile neutropenia can be a life-threatening side effect of chemotherapy if patients develop a bacterial infection…