Palliative care is an approach that aims at improving the quality of life of patients with advanced cancer.
It helps the patients and their families through early identification, assessment, and treatment of pain. It also addresses the physical, psychosocial, and spiritual aspects of caring for cancer patients.
When integrated with other treatment options for cancer at an early stage, palliative care can help the patients in dealing with their illness better and leading the remainder of their lives with acceptance. It not only enhances the quality of life for those with cancer but also has a positive influence on the course of the illness.
Palliative care should begin during the early course of treating cancer and continue with the treatment. Research indicates patients who receive palliative care with treatment for cancer, survive longer than those who are only on medical treatment.
However, palliative care is different from hospice care in that the latter begins after treatment of cancer is stopped and it is clear that the person may not survive the illness.
Palliative care is provided by a team of experts in various areas. For instance, therapists and nurses; nutritionists or dietitians to keep a check on food, weight, and ensuring upkeep of strength and energy levels; pain specialists; naturopathic doctors who can help with relaxation through herbal therapies; and psychologists, counselors, wellness coaches, and social workers who can help manage stress, may all form a part of palliative care team.
The effects of cancer and its treatment can vary from person to person. An approach to palliative care that is comprehensive in nature will address the following and can improve the way a patient and their family perceive the disease.
Palliative care can alleviate some of the common symptoms associated with cancer such as pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and insomnia using various kinds of therapies.
It helps address certain emotional concerns including depression, anxiety, and fear associated with cancer. Palliative care experts provide counselling, support, and also make referrals to mental health professionals.
Apart from the disease itself, there are other things that the patient and their family may need to worry about - For instance, financial and legal issues or insurance. They may also find it hard to make sense of the language and terminology in forms. This is another area where palliative care specialists can come in. They can assist in coordinating such services for the patient's family.
According to Dr Dinesh Singh, Oncologist at Lybrate Platform, while palliative care should not be framed as a last resort to managing cancer, there is also a need to sensitize cancer patients and their families about the importance of such care.
They should be made aware of the fact that palliative care can help them in leading the highest quality of life for a long time even with a condition like cancer.