Know The Need For And Importance Of Palliative Care In Cancer Patients

Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients (adults and children) and their families who are facing problems associated with life-threatening illnesses.

Dr Gowri Kulkarni, Head of Medical Operations, MediBuddy

Palliative care involves a range of services delivered by a range of professionals that all have equally important roles to play – including physicians, nursing, support workers, paramedics, pharmacists, physiotherapists, and volunteers –– in support of the patient and their family.

Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients (adults and children) and their families who are facing problems associated with life-threatening illnesses. It prevents and relieves suffering through the early identification, correct assessment, and treatment of pain and other problems, whether physical, psychosocial, or spiritual.

Palliative care is utilized to help to treat patients across a wide range of diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, AIDS, diabetes, etc. The goal of palliative care is not only to manage the pain but also to provide a comprehensive approach to the well-being of the patient. This means addressing the patient’s emotional and social needs, as well as the psychological state of the patients’ along with efficient pain management.

Palliative care works wonders for cancer patients as it helps them to feel good both mentally and physically while undergoing the treatment. The palliative care team works in coordination with all specialties of oncologists to provide extra support to the caregiver of the patient. A caregiver is responsible for assisting with several day-to-day tasks, like giving timely medications, providing transportation, helping with daily activities, offering emotional support, and talking with doctors, etc. Early administration of palliative care in several metastatic cancers has proven to increase a patient’s coping abilities and quality of life.

According to WHO, almost a million cases of cancer are diagnosed every year, of which three-fourth are in terminal stages and in pain. It is a necessity to create awareness among people about the need for and importance of this multi-disciplinary approach. It is essential to normalize palliative care to increase its effectiveness. The psychological and sociological needs of terminally ill patients are of as equal importance as their medical needs.

In India, every hour more than 60 patients die from cancer and its pain. Moreover, with a population of over a billion, spread over a vast geopolitical mosaic, the reach and reliability of palliative care programs may appear staggering and insurmountable.

Considering the status of cancer patients in India and the lack of proper guidance to take care of terminally ill patients, it is essential to create palliative care awareness. The process of living through pain can be tedious and draining, and hence the need for palliative care. To ease the suffering and create a safe social and psychological space for terminally ill patients, it is necessary to include palliative care in the whole treatment plan.

Palliative care is a multi-disciplinary approach indulging in all three physical, psychological, social, and existential aspects of the treatment, where the patients’ situations and needs, as well as the family’s situations and needs, are important to take care of to ensure their integrity. For metastatic cancer, as death nears, the symptom burden of a patient may worsen and require more aggressive palliation. With the support of these professionals, the comfort measures intensify, so does the support provided to a patient’s family.

Sometimes, the role of palliative care professionals focuses primarily on the support of the patient’s family and help them with their grief and mourning if the patient passes away. This is another reason that providing support to caregivers is an important part of palliative care.

In many instances, family members task themselves with the responsibility of looking after the patient’s needs, the pressure of which is beyond measures. Apart from accompanying the doctor appointments and medication and treatment plans, it is also important to maintain the social and psychological needs of the patient and many such overwhelming responsibilities. Undertaking these responsibilities while maintaining one’s sanity is a next-to-impossible task, thus there is a strong need to have trained palliative care professionals in place.

Palliative care has proven to profoundly improve treatment management in patients suffering from terminally ill cancer. Hence, specialized professionals can help to provide a dignified life to the patients suffering from cancer and its aggressive treatments. It is a necessity for both the patient and the caregiver to maintain and manage the physical and psychological health of the patients and to help process grief and loss of seeing your loved one pass away.


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