Oncologists caring for patients with incurable cancer should have realistic conversations about treatment options and refer patients for palliative care services earlier, according to a new policy statement by the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The recommendations come on the heels of research showing that fewer than 40% of oncologists have such candid talks with their patients and that patients who receive palliative care live longer than those who receive only oncologic care.
"Oncologists have tended to hold palliative and hospice care back until someone is really sick and even near death, and that's the wrong approach," said Thomas J. Smith, MD, co-author of the ASCO policy statement published online Jan. 24 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. "More and more data show that if you work closely with palliative care you can help people adjust to their illness, help with their symptoms a lot and even potentially make people live longer."
The statement advocates an individualized approach to discussing and providing disease-directed and supportive care options for patients with advanced cancer throughout the continuum of care. Under the plan, the palliative care team should consist of at least one physician board-certified in hospice and palliative medicine as well as one nonphysician member such as a nurse, pharmacist, social worker or chaplain. (American Medical News)
As a healthcare provider, this is a difficult situation to discuss but one that is so very necessary to both the patient and families. Often too much energy and time is lost in trying to keep up a filter that everything is fine. I have worked for HOSPICE and also had two parents with terminal illnesses and I have seen that Hospice brings a quality of life and a cohesiveness for all the family members involved as well as the patient. It is about celebrating life and isn't that what we should all be doing? Each day is a gift and even at a time when things are nearing an end the clarity of what truly is important comes through. As always, this column is not affiliated with any instiution and is a reflection of my views and as always MAKE IT A GOOD DAY! S