Dr. Baker on Approaching Palliative Care for Children With Cancer

Justin N. Baker, MD
Published: Thursday, Jul 12, 2018



Justin N. Baker, MD, chief, Division of Quality of Life and Palliative Care, attending physician, Quality of Life Service, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, discusses approaching palliative care for children with cancer.

Palliative care for children with cancer is inherently multidisciplinary, says Baker. A holistic approach must be taken with palliative or end-of-life care, which requires an entire team. This team will address issues related to suffering. Baker says that suffering is the antithesis of palliative care, just as the enemy of oncology is cancer. A child with cancer not only goes through physical symptoms, but psychosocial distress, spiritual and existential distress, and psychological distress.

A team approach looks all at angles of end-of-life care, which includes being there for the family of the child. Addressing the needs of the child, as well as the family who must re-enter the community, are ways that a team-based palliative care approach should operate, Baker says. This is a very complex part of cancer care, and cannot be done by 1 individual, making a team-based multidisciplinary approach imperative.


Justin N. Baker, MD, chief, Division of Quality of Life and Palliative Care, attending physician, Quality of Life Service, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, discusses approaching palliative care for children with cancer.

Palliative care for children with cancer is inherently multidisciplinary, says Baker. A holistic approach must be taken with palliative or end-of-life care, which requires an entire team. This team will address issues related to suffering. Baker says that suffering is the antithesis of palliative care, just as the enemy of oncology is cancer. A child with cancer not only goes through physical symptoms, but psychosocial distress, spiritual and existential distress, and psychological distress.

A team approach looks all at angles of end-of-life care, which includes being there for the family of the child. Addressing the needs of the child, as well as the family who must re-enter the community, are ways that a team-based palliative care approach should operate, Baker says. This is a very complex part of cancer care, and cannot be done by 1 individual, making a team-based multidisciplinary approach imperative.

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