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Early Palliative Care Can Help Cancer Patients, Caregivers

Researchers are finding that the introduction of palliative care as early as possible in advanced cancer cases can improve quality of life for patients while providing better outcomes for caregivers. This type of supportive care is generally offered in the last stages of life for those with advance cancer, but earlier introduction has benefits that include increased quality of life for patients, researchers find.

The latest look at palliative care and its benefits comes from the ENABLE III trial that looked 207 patients with late-stage cancer. Some of the patients received palliative care immediately after their first visit while others received it 3 months later. What researchers found was that those who received earlier intervention reported an improvement in their 1-year survival by 63 percent versus those who received care later at 48 percent. Outcomes for caregivers were also improved with those who received support services early reporting a lower depression rate.

Palliative care involves a variety of interventions for those with serious, life-limiting illnesses. It is designed to help relieve symptoms while alleviating some of the stress that goes along with being sick. The overall goal of this type of care is not to deliver a cure, but to improve quality of life for the patient and the caregivers and family involved.

The latest trial indicates that introduction of palliative care earlier can help patients with incurable forms of cancer enjoy a higher quality of life, perhaps longer, than their counterparts who are offered this care later after diagnosis. Patients with incurable cancer may find a number of support services available to help them manage symptoms so they can enjoy a higher quality of life. To find out more, patients and their caregivers should discuss palliative care options with licensed healthcare providers and providers of support services for cancer patients.

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