The link between asbestos and lung cancer is undeniable. The Environmental Working Group estimates that asbestos-induced lung cancer claims the lives of about 4,800 individuals in the U.S. every year. As the prevalence of this condition is expected to grow in the next decade or so, scientists are trying to find more effective ways to improve the lives of patients.
At Mesothelioma Circle, we try to keep tabs on the latest news from the scientific front. One team of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital decided to explore the use of palliative care that gets integrated into standard oncology for lung cancer patients, as reported by HealthDay News.
What is palliative care?
Usually when people think of cancer treatment, approaches that are intended to cure the disease tend to come to mind. However, palliative care takes a different approach. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) describes this strategy as one designed to ensure that patients are as comfortable as possible. This is accomplished by focusing on the symptoms and side effects of medication.
Palliative care is designed to address several dimensions of patients’ lives:
- Physical symptoms, such as pain, nausea, fatigue, vomiting and insomnia.
- Emotional problems, such as depression, anxiety and family coping.
- Practical needs, such as legal or financial issues.
- Spiritual needs and questions.
This work usually requires multidisciplinary medical teams that include doctors, nurses, psychologists, chaplains, dietitians and other professionals. Health insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, usually covers these services.
Palliative care is not to be confused with hospice care, which is usually intended for patients whom doctors determine to be terminal. Although they both operate on the principle of keeping patients comfortable, palliative care is meant to be administered in addition to standard cancer treatment, and usually starts soon after diagnosis.
What does palliative care include for lung cancer patients?
For the new study, the team of scientists wanted to figure out what palliative care emphasized for lung cancer patients who were also undergoing standard treatment. For their investigation, the researchers looked at the data collected from 20 patients who were newly diagnosed with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer. All subjects began to receive palliative care within 24 months of of their diagnosis.
The researchers discovered that palliative care for the subjects tended to focus on ways to cope with the disease, and the relief of symptoms. During the initial sessions, medical providers focused on helping patients build relationships and understand their disease and prognosis. Future discussions centered on end-of-life care.
“Further research is needed not only to determine the generalizability of the benefits of early integrated PC but also to identify the components of the intervention that might be most effective,” the authors wrote, quoted by the news source.
They also noted that early palliative care is associated with a better quality of life and improvement in mood for patients.
Hospitals can help you
If you are interested in exploring palliative care options, you should ask your hospital for a referral to services. Try to be as specific as you can about why you want to know more about palliative care – do you have physical symptoms that are difficult? Are you or your family struggling to emotionally cope with the situation?
The facility itself may be staffed with professionals who specialize in palliative care. Otherwise, they should be knowledgeable about places and practitioners within your community that are able to suit your needs.