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Changing the Misconceptions About Palliative Care

Prasad R. Kudalkar, MD, a board certified medical oncologist and hematologist with OHC who is also board certified in hospice and palliative medicine, Blogs, 0 comments
July 10, 2018


I believe palliative care is a wonderful benefit for cancer patients. I think more patients would take advantage of its benefits if there weren’t so many misconceptions about this service. I’d like to try to change this. I would like people to think “support” whenever they hear the term palliative care.

We provide palliative care to our patients to help them with the side effects of their disease and/or treatment. Palliative care doesn’t mean the person is dying, and it doesn’t mean the doctor has given up.

Palliative care is also called supportive care or care management because it provides an extra layer of support for people with any stage of cancer. It’s available at every step of the treatment process. It isn’t hospice care and it isn’t end-of-life care. Hospice care begins when a cure is no longer the goal of care and the sole focus is on quality of life (keeping the patient comfortable, calm, with their loved ones). It is only provided to people with advanced cancer who are expected to live six months or less.

Palliative care helps patient with any related psychological, social or spiritual problems. It isn’t limited to medical treatment. Problems may include pain, nausea and fatigue. Sadness, anxiety, fear and stress. Doubts about one’s faith. Self-care and mobility, and the needs of your family and caregivers.

You can receive palliative care in your home, a doctor’s office, hospital, cancer center, or long-term care facility. It is most often given in a hospital, but it isn’t limited to hospital patients. It depends what you need and the available resources.

Palliative can help with cost of care. In an article in the Wall Street Journal, studies by Kaiser Permanente, for instance, found that such programs can save $5,000 to $7,000 a patient by preventing costly trips to emergency rooms (ER) and avoidable readmissions to hospitals. OHC’s program, Call Us Early. Call Us First. has had similar results: reduced ER visits, reduced hospital admissions, reduced costs for patients, reduced costs for payors, improved patient outcomes, improved patient satisfaction, and reduced complications.

Again, it’s all about support. And there are many options available. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) publishes a very helpful booklet about Palliative Care. It includes details about topics such as the palliative care team, how to talk about palliative care, and the costs and coverage. It can be downloaded at https://www.cancer.net/sites/cancer.net/files/palliative_care.pdf and is available in English and Spanish. You can also order copies in English at http://shop.asco.org/.


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