Accompanying the ascendance of cancer as a leading cause of death worldwide is a new set of global health priorities focused on palliative care--the relief of symptoms and suffering, optimization of functional status, and quality of life for those with advanced, potentially life-limiting illnesses. In high-income countries, palliative care improves outcomes for patients, caregivers, provider organizations, and health systems. Data are not yet available to demonstrate similar benefits in low- and middle-income countries, where access to even the most basic palliative interventions (eg, opioids for pain management) is inadequate and unevenly distributed. This article describes current global disparities in the availability of palliative care. We make the case for international prioritization of palliative care as a critical strategy for improving outcomes for people with cancer and their caregivers worldwide.
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