A diagnosis of cancer can be scary enough for residents of Bel Air and elsewhere, especially since many people will automatically think that the only treatment choices must be painful and even risky.
But once you learn about palliative care, you realize that there are other options out there beyond traditional chemotherapy, radiation, or both.
The staff at Accredited Home Care is happy to encourage people to have conversations with their health care providers about traditional care options and about palliative care options. The latter is a newer approach to medicine that places a high degree of emphasis on a patient’s quality of life rather than “finding a cure” or making them undergo sometimes painful procedures.
Palliative care can take the form of focused pain management, where medication is prescribed mostly to help pain and keep people lucid rather than something that will be painful and will likely have side effects but is intended to try to treat certain symptoms.
Another common example of palliative care is sending a patient home to recover there rather than keeping them in the hospital for an extended period of time. Being in their own environment is definitely less stressful than trying to recover in a sometimes noisy hospital environment where people are constantly poking and prodding them.
Hospice care is one form of palliative care, where efforts are made to provide comfort and reduced pain during someone’s final days, rather than trying more complex procedures.
Some patients undergoing palliative care are able to recover and recuperate. Sometimes, just undergoing this type of care without the stress of traditional medicine and traditional expectations can create a more helpful situation for recovery.
At the same time, however, palliative care for someone fighting cancer shouldn’t be thought of as a cure – it’s a different approach to management that may or may not have a different outcome than traditional care and traditional cancer treatment methods.
But the approach to quality of life is part of its appeal rather than the more invasive treatments where people get high doses of chemo chemicals or radiation over months.
Palliative care can be activated anytime in a person’s treatment for a serious medical condition. Once a person requests this, they are connected with a medical team in their area that specializes in this type of care, including physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals.
In some cases, their primary health care provider may be invited to be part of the palliative care team if he or she wants to remain involved with the patient. Other times a palliative care physician may take over this primary role, since they may have more experience with this approach and advocate different needs.
Palliative care can also be activated after someone has been diagnosed with cancer and begun or completed traditional cancer treatments.
They may have pain or other residual problems from the radiation or chemotherapy, such as skin damage, nerve damage, or other problems. They also may have a terminal diagnosis and their primary care provider doesn’t have other options for them. Or if they do, they may be shots that could be painful with little chance of success.
Palliative care can also address some of the emotional questions and challenges that may come up during or after a cancer diagnosis or treatment. While traditional care may focus only on the physical acts of treatment and recovery, palliative care realizes that the emotional component is also important.
Any of these occasions could be an optimal time to consider moving into palliative care.
Mark the occasion
If you’ve been battling cancer or a loved one has, this month is a perfect opportunity to celebrate.
While cancer itself isn’t worth celebrating, it’s important for those who have been through it to find any reason to celebrate. After all, there are all sorts of less fun things that can happen in the future, so any occasion for something brighter is definitely welcome.
That’s part of the appeal of National Cancer Survivors Day, an annual celebration each June that’s designed to be a tribute to those have survived cancer, as a way to inspire people who have received cancer diagnoses recently, and to support friends, family and other loved ones whose lives have been touched by cancer. It brings awareness to the struggles that everyone in the cancer community is facing, and shows that happiness can be found after a diagnosis or cancer treatment.
The National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation has been organizing this event and gathering sponsors for this special day for the last 33 years. It also encourages cancer support groups in different communities around the country to plan their own smaller events to spread the word and inspire others.
This year, the event took place on June 7. Although some traditional live events were canceled this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, survivors and others are encouraged to celebrate as well as they can, even if it means putting messages on social media or contacting people via video chat. And they’re also encouraged to keep this spirit of celebration going even after the official day.