Training Otolaryngologists in Palliative Care Delivery: An Underutilized Opportunity

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Palliative care is an underutilized and often misunderstood discipline in the treatment of patients with head and neck cancer. The key components of palliative care include symptoms management, psychosocial support, and enhanced communications. Abundant evidence has demonstrated the beneficial effect for the early incorporation of palliative care in the treatment paradigm for patients with chronic diseases and malignancies, with findings supporting its positive effect on patients’ quality of life as well their survival. Particularly for otolaryngologists, the unique morbidities of head and neck cancer make our patients especially vulnerable and even more in need of the support and benefits that can come from palliative care. While increased consultation with palliative care providers for patients with head and neck cancer is a good first step, training otolaryngologists to develop their own “primary palliative care competencies” is key for improving our patients’ outcomes.

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