In the U.S, palliative care for patients with mesothelioma and other types of cancer are generally treated as a sort of afterthought: they are available and offered to patients who wish to receive it.
But using palliative care at the end of treatment, when patients are beyond hope, may be a mistake according to a study just published in the journal Lancet Oncology.
The study, which was conducted in Belgium, has concluded that early and systemic integration of palliative care as part of cancer care made a significant difference in the quality of patients who received it.
The study looked at patients who had been diagnosed with advanced malignant solid tumors rather than specifically at mesothelioma patients, but experts in patient care believe that the lessons learned are applicable to all cancer patients.
According to Gaelle Vanbutsele, MSc, of rise Universiteit Brussel and Ghent University, Brussels, Belgium, “To our knowledge, this is the first time that early and systematic integration of palliative care in oncological care has improved the overall quality of life of patients with advanced cancer, of whom most were offered psychosocial support by professionalized caregivers.”
Much like mesothelioma patients, the 186-member patient population included in the study all had an estimated life expectancy of 12 months. They were divided into two groups, with one group simply receiving standard cancer care and the other assigned to receive early and systematic integration of palliative care.
The group that met with palliative care nurses and physicians had a much higher overall quality of life score at 12 weeks compared with those who simply received oncology care.
These improvements included, “Cognitive functioning and existential well being that were significantly improved at 12 weeks, as were physical functioning and role functioning at 18 weeks.” The main difference in the approach was a “focus on a patient’s quality of life – e.g., spending time with family and friends, or partaking in day-to-day activities.”
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, it is essential that you have the support you need to ensure that your final days are the best they can be. For information about the resources available to you, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.