Palliative care may prolong life, reduce suffering

Do you know the difference between “palliative care” and “hospice care”? I must confess that for sometime I did not. Now that I’m more educated on the topic, I’m finding that many patients – and even many doctors – confuse palliative medicine with hospice (a form of palliative care for people in the last six months of life). Other patients mistakenly worry that doctors won’t work as hard to cure them if they ask for palliative care.

But, according to an article in USA Today, these “notions could change in light of recent research”:

A study of 151 patients published last summer in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that “getting early palliative care – in addition to regular medical treatment – helped people with lung cancer live three months longer, compared with those given standard care.”

Moreover, palliative care patients “didn’t just live longer. They also lived better, with less depression and a higher quality of life.”

According to an editorial accompanying the study, “The new approach recognizes that life-threatening illness, whether it can be cured or controlled, carries with it significant burdens of suffering for patients and their families and that this suffering can be effectively addressed by modern palliative care teams.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, reducing patients’ misery may help them live longer.

“We now have both the means and the knowledge to make palliative care an essential and routine component of evidence-based, high-quality care for the management of serious illness.”

Amen.

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