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  • Writer's pictureAnnaliese Rix

Do you know how Palliative Care can assist in the treatment of cancer?

The 4 th of February is recognised worldwide as #InternationalCancerDay. Cancer is on the rise and this day exists to raise awareness and to encourage prevention and early detection. According to the WHO seventeen people die every minute of cancer. We are all affected. Either by being a cancer sufferer ourself, or having a family member, friend or colleague that have been impacted by cancer.

A term in the treatment of cancer patients, or any other chronic life threatening illness, that is not well known, is "Palliative Care. It is often mistaken as a service only offered in a Hospice setting. Palliative Care focus on optimal pain management, as well as the encouragement of the quality of life. Unlike hospice, it can be provided at any stage of illness and it can be offered alongside curative care.

According to an article in The Washington Post there's strong evidence that Palliative care can improve the quality of life for terminal and chronically ill patients, while reducing emergency room visits and hospitalisations by as much as half. Studies consistently show that this curbs overall health-care costs, a benefit that appeals to managed care systems - health-care plans that receive a flat annual fee per patient, rather than getting paid according to the number of medical procedures they perform.

Having been part of a Palliative Care team and still offering Palliative care services in my private practice I have witnessed how the roles of the different team players contributed to an enhanced well-being and overall quality of life.

The Social worker's role focus on the psycho social dynamics of the patient and the family. It has been amazing to witness how emotional support, therapeutic intervention in terms of emotional baggage, positive interventions via music- and art therapy, contributed to alleviate pain and suffering, as well as the general enhancement of the patient's quality of life.

Outpatient Palliative care cannot only improve the quality of life for people with advanced cancer, but can also improve length of life , according to a Tulane University study, published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

Along with a cancer diagnosis comes stress, anxiety, and depression, which have severe adverse effects if not addressed adequately.Unresolved emotional complexities can enhance pain levels of a cancer patient. Studies show that both physical and psychological outcomes are improved with Palliative care.

Palliative care on a psychological level can involve weekly or monthly in-person visit as well as phone support.

Care teams can consist of doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and clergy.

It is recognised that the Palliative care needs of patients with different types of cancers vary, and that the focus of care need to be more tailored to the type of cancer. What is of paramount importance is that the confusion around Palliative care should be clarified. It is NOT a service only for the terminally ill and can happen alongside aggressive cancer treatment.

Anyone with cancer related symptoms or in active cancer treatment should be considering palliative care . At its best it is a supportive service for all being confronted with roller-caster emotions and feeling out of control. The valuable emotional support also include family members of those being diagnosed with severe life threatening illnesses.

This article is dedicated to all sufferers who bravely journey with the uncertainty and unique challenges a cancer diagnosis brings.

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