Palliative Care

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is care that is provided to improve the quality of life for patients who have a serious illness, such as cancer. It not only provides care to patients, but also to their families. It is a holistic approach to address symptom assessment and management that may include pain, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, constipation, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and loss of appetite. Palliative care works to facilitate communication among patient, families, and providers while assisting with decision-making and establishing goals of care. In addition, it aims to relieve stress and worry by addressing the emotional, spiritual, and practical needs of both patient and family.

Who can receive it?

Essentially, any patient with cancer can receive palliative care. Palliative care should begin at diagnosis and continue through treatment, after treatment, and end of life.

Can I still receive cancer treatment?

Palliative care does not replace your cancer treatment. You may continue to follow with your regular physician and healthcare team while receiving palliative care. However, if there comes a time when further treatment is not warranted, then palliative care becomes the focus of care to alleviate any symptoms and emotional distress from cancer.

Issues Addressed


Common symptoms that you may experience are pain, loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, constipation, shortness of breath, and insomnia. These symptoms may be relieved with medications, physical therapy, deep breathing techniques, and nutrition therapy. Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery may also relieve pain due to tumor.


Patients and families can experience a multitude of emotions that may develop with a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Some emotional changes that you or your family members may experience are fear, anger, depression, grief, anxiety, disbelief, and relief. The palliative care provider can provide counseling, hold family meetings, and refer to support groups or mental health professionals.


Many questions and concerns regarding financial and legal issues arise from cancer patients. The palliative care team can assist with coordination of care by directing families to appropriate resources for financial counseling or identifying local resources.

Our practice has specially trained employees to assist with Advanced Care Planning. Advanced Care Planning is a very important aspect of your care since it allows you to identify your values and quality of life with those closest to you. It allows you to state your wishes and values and decide who in your life you wish to speak for you if you are unable to speak for yourself.

How we can help

A provider specializing in palliative care can help you and your family in the following ways:

  • Manage symptoms caused by cancer or its treatment, including:
    • Pain
    • Nausea
    • Shortness of breath
    • Loss of appetite
    • Fatigue
    • Constipation
  • Treat depression and anxiety related to cancer
  • Provide emotional support and referrals for spiritual support
  • Enhance communication with doctors and family members
  • Support you in becoming clear on what your goals are for your care and treatment
  • Assist you in completing advance care planning documents

Benefits of Palliative Care

  • Timely attention to early management of symptoms related to cancer and treatments has been shown to:
  • Increase quality of life
  • Possibly extend length of life
  • Help reduce caregiver stress

Getting Started

Your provider may recommend palliative care services. You may also request an appointment from your healthcare team. Services are available at select Minnesota Oncology clinics. Your family members, caregivers, and friends are an important part of your care. We encourage you to bring them with you to an appointment when possible. (Due to COVID-19 restrictions, they may be asked to join by video or phone.) After your initial appointment, the team will follow up with you on a regular basis to address concerns and provide ongoing support.

Will insurance cover this?

Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers typically cover palliative care services. If you are unsure, we would be happy to have you meet with one of our patient benefit representatives.

Meet our Palliative Care Team:

Provider Practice Location(s)

   Emily Schafhauser, MD

Fridley Clinic

St. Paul Cancer Center

  Bruce Anderson, RN, RNCS, CNP

 Maplewood Cancer  Center
 Minneapolis Clinic
 Woodbury Clinic

 Danna Renner, MSN, APRN-CNS, ACNS-BC

 Burnsville Clinic
 Edina Clinic
 Minneapolis Clinic

   Drew Holm, PA-C

 Coon Rapids Clinic


Additional resources:

Minnesota Network of Palliative Care & Hospice:
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network:
The Center to Advance Palliative Care:
Choosing Wisely:
The Center to Advance Palliative Care video explaining palliative care: