Palliative cancer care – meeting patients’ needs at an early stage
(14.11.2012) The issue «Practical Issues in Palliative and Quality-of-Life Care» was addressed at the 2012 Cancer Center Business Summit in Kansas, USA.
By Ragnhild Green Helgås
President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), Sandra M. Swain, shared her thoughts on some of the main points from the congress – one of them being the importance of introducing palliative care early in the cancer disease trajectory.
- [Integration of] the palliative care team early when our patients are on active treatment is important; it helps if both treatments are linked visits, Swain states.
The integration of palliative care into oncology requires staff with an education within palliative care, that is doctors, nurses and clinicians involved in the multidisciplinary palliative care teams. Specialized competence within the field enhances the chance for patients to receive personalized treatment addressing their needs.
- The trajectory to the end of the journey is very personal, and as much effort needs to be made along the way for palliative care as for molecular therapy in patients with advanced disease. The doctor needs to ask the patient: What do you want to know about your illness? How are you coping? What is your understanding of the situation?
Palliative care has become a burning issue in ASCO, with integration into oncology at an early stage in the disease trajectory being a central message in the society’s latest publications. At the European Palliative Care Research Centre (PRC) in Trondheim, Norway, this is research being implemented into practice.
- At the Cancer Clinic at St. Olavs Hospital, Trondheim University Hospital, we aim for an integrated model between oncology and palliative care, says head of the Clinic and chair of the PRC, professor Stein Kaasa.
- In order to achieve complete integration, however, we need to improve our communication – not only with the patients, but also with the society. We need to make them understand that palliative care is not simply the end, but a supplement and complement to standard oncological care, Kaasa says.