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Value of Early Palliative Care

Posted 12/7/2015

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  Palliative care has a rather bad name in some circles. Long associated with the end of life, and sometimes confused with hospice care, it has not been a specialty that most cancer patients are eager to consult. Fortunately that is changing, and, increasingly, there is a recognition that palliative care teams can offer a lot to one's quality of life at any stage of cancer.

  Of course palliative care continues to be an important part of the care of very ill people (not just with cancer), but these clinicians have much to offer patients struggling with pain or nausea or fatigue or other negative life symptoms at any time of cancer treatment. If your doctor suggest that a Palliative Care consult might be useful, don't panic! Matter of fact, if you are feeling poorly, it could be a grand idea to make the suggestion yourself.

  From Medscape Oncology comes this discussion of a recent presentation at the 2014 European Cancer Congress:

The Evidence for Early Palliative Care in Cancer Patients

Kate M. O'Rourke

In recent years, evidence has grown for using palliative care early in cancer patients, but it is still not incorporated as much as it should be. At the 2015 European Cancer Congress (ECC), clinicians discussed some of the challenges to integrating palliative care into oncology care.

The Evidence For Palliative Care

According to Marie Bakitas, DNSc, associate director of the Center for Palliative and Supportive Care at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, there is plenty of evidence for the benefits of early palliative care. In 1990, the World Health Organization recommended the use of early palliative care at the time of cancer diagnosis in patients with all stages of cancer, but it has taken awhile for this recommendation to be embraced.[1] 

In the late 1990s, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded demonstration projects to test approaches to improve end-of-life care, including ENABLE (Educate, Nurture, Advise, Before Life Ends).[2] In the pilot project, patients with advanced cancer underwent four structured in-person sessions with a palliative care advanced practice nurse. The sessions focused on problem-solving, empowerment, symptom management, support and communication, and advanced care planning.

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