Palliative Care - Improving Quality of Life and Your Survival 

If you are suffering from drug and treatment side effects or pain, insist that you be referred to a palliative care specialist. 

An article published by Cure Magazine (January 14, 2019), demonstrated that outpatient palliative care could improve both the quality of your life (QoL) as well as help you live longer!

What is palliative care? Palliative care provides anyone with a serious or chronic illness, including cancer – from the time of their initial diagnosis throughout the entire course of their treatment specialized care that is designed to optimizes their quality of life. Good palliative care will anticipate, prevent, and manage suffering. 

Research conducted at Tulane University has shown that the use of palliative care might also increase a person’s survival as well as benefit their Quality of Life (QoL).

Michael Hoerger Ph.D., MSCR, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Oncology at Tulane University, the study author, evaluated 2,307 patient records from nine different studies.  He compared survival and quality of life outcomes between those who were given outpatient specialty palliative care and those who did not receive palliative care. All evaluated people had advanced cancer, the majority of them had either lung cancer or gastrointestinal cancer; however, there is no reason to think that people with other cancers would not have a similar positive experience.

Those receiving palliative care showed survival advantages at six, nine, 15 and 18 months, with a 14 percent absolute increase in one-year survival (56 percent versus 42 percent in the palliative care versus non-palliative groups, respectively). The average survival for those given palliative care was more than 4.5 months longer than those who did not receive palliative care.

“In general, patients who received palliative care lived a little longer. This doesn’t mean palliative care cures people of their cancer; it just means that they might live a little bit longer or for a longer time frame.”- (Michael Hoerger)

Hoerger went on to say that it is not at all clear why palliative care extends life. It’s possible that palliative care may allow patients to decide to stop toxic treatments such as chemotherapy, which might be more harmful to them than helpful toward the end of their life. It is also possible that palliative care allows patients to have a more positive outlook, possibly extending their life. 

It is important not to confuse palliative care with hospice, or end-of-life care, they are different. Palliative care is merely the treatment of side effects, and it can be prescribed at any time in the disease course and for any prognosis.  Palliative care is focused on improving the comfort and quality of a person’s life. 

Supporting the conclusion that palliative care can extend survival, other research has found that it may reduce the risk of suicide in veterans with stage 3b or 4 lung cancer.

Moving forward, Hoerger hopes that his findings will expand the use of palliative care in health systems across the country, while also enlightening patients and their families to the benefits that it could provide.

Hoeger said, “What I hope this research will do is help clinicians realize that they need to grow their palliative care programs (added by Cancer ABCs- and then actively offer it to the people in their care).  This research is also a tremendous opportunity for patients and families to know what palliative care is and speak up and ask for it.”

Palliative care should be offered to all cancer patients suffering from treatment side effects or pain.   If it isn’t provided to you, speak up and insist that you be given a referral to a palliative care specialist.  Improve both the quality of your life and also extend your survival, insist that you receive any palliative care that you need.  Don’t take NO for an answer. 

 Live better and live longer.