Palliative Care: Navigating Cancer Treatment
For many cancer patients, it’s the side effects to cancer treatments that cause the most disruption to their daily lives.
“Palliative care is a partnership. We address those side effects to provide the patient with the highest possible quality of life while their oncologist or hematologist focuses on treating the cancer itself,” says Dr. Jared Dirks, Crossroads Hospice and Palliative Care Medical Director.
When to Get a Palliative Care Consult
“Any patient diagnosed with cancer should have a palliative care consultation. At Stage 4, it’s most often a pain issue. If we see patients earlier, we can provide the greatest benefit to managing all their side effects,” says Dr. Dirks.
Have You Seen This Patient?
A fifty-seven-year-old gentleman was referred to us with Stage 4 lung cancer. His oncologist was treating a very aggressive form of cancer with chemotherapy, and the patient had lost 60 pounds since his diagnosis.
How Palliative Care Helped
We were able to address the constipation and nausea causing his weight loss. Working with a Nurse Practitioner to educate the patient, he now understands how the narcotics can cause constipation which can lead to nausea and vomiting. In the 90 days since he began palliative care, he has lost no additional weight.
Treating Common Side Effects of Cancer Treatment
Palliative care is beneficial in treating some of the common side effects of chemotherapy and radiation including:
- Dry mouth
- Appetite loss
- Skin Burns
How Palliative Care Benefits Doctors
- Better patient outcomes. When the patient’s pain and other symptoms are being managed, their overall quality of life improves, giving their cancer treatment the best chance of being effective.
- Saving Time. The palliative care team becomes the primary point for answering the patient and family’s day-to-day questions. “If we answer four calls that the patient would typically direct toward their doctor, it saves an hour of that doctor’s time,” says Dr. Dirks. Notes from each palliative care clinician visit are sent to the primary care physician to keep everyone in the loop.
- More time to focus on their area of expertise. As Dr. Dirks explains, “Palliative Care physicians stay up-to-date on new ways to manage symptom just as oncologists stay up-to-date on new treatments for cancer. It allows us to try things that they might not be aware of.”
The New Old School
“Palliative care is like an old school family practice. We take care of patients where they need it and can focus on the patient’s wishes. It’s exciting to see how engaged patients are when they realize they can control their care,” says Dr. Dirks.
To learn more about Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care, please visit our website or call us at 1-888-564-3405.
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