A new study suggests early palliative care may actually be a better form of treatment for patients with non-small-cell lung cancer than traditional curative care. Patients in the study who were assigned palliative care reported an overall better quality of life, lower levels of depression and survived longer than their traditionally treated counterparts.
The findings, which were reported in the August 19th edition of The New England Journal of Medicine, may seem counter-intuitive. Palliative care ñ the idea of treating symptoms and improving quality of life for patient as opposed to directly treating the illness ñ is typically viewed as a last resort by cancer patients. However, these new findings strengthen the idea that choosing palliative care should not necessarily be viewed as “giving up.”
The study involved the randomization of 151 metastatic lung cancer patients into two groups ñ one that received palliative care and one that received traditional care. Researchers used quality-of-life and depression surveys to conclude that those treated with palliative care were happier and enjoyed a better quality of life at the time of death. More surprisingly, palliative patients survived an estimated two months longer on average than those who went through traditional treatment.
In response to the findings, researchers stress that the potential benefits of palliative care need to be properly communicated by doctors when discussing available treatment options. Presently, much of the medical community perceives palliative care as an inferior treatment option. In some cases, as the study suggests, this may not be the case.