New research suggests palliative care may not only ease suffering of lung cancer patients, but also increase lifespan. This insight comes on the heels of a study of 151 patients with advanced lung cancer. Among these patients, those that were given early palliative care typically been reserved for patients close to death were shown to survive 2.7 months longer than those who received standard care.
This extended lifespan occurred despite a less aggressive cancer treatment regiment that included less frequent sessions of chemotherapy. As such, the findings suggest that drug therapy is not the only important element to consider when providing cancer treatment.
Palliative care is a type of treatment that focuses on minimizing a patient’s symptoms, as well as improving mental health and quality of life. In some cases, patients may be reluctant to choose palliative care, as many associate it with “giving up” on fighting the disease.
However, as this new study suggests, such is not necessarily the case. Thomas Smith, a palliative care expert who runs a program at Virginia Commonwealth University refers to the study as a breakthrough ñ serving to highlight the importance of beginning palliative care sooner rather than later.
Though overall cancer treatment is less intensive with a palliative care focus, the whole-health approach requires the involvement of numerous nurses, doctors, nutritionists, pharmacists and others. As a result, patients receiving palliative care are commonly able to minimize in-patient hospital visits.
As Dr. Ira Byock ñ an expert at Dartmouth Medical School who was not involved in the study ñ sums up, “Attending to people’s physical, emotional, social and even spiritual well-being is good for them and helps them live longer.”