Chris Hansen, ACS CAN President

ACS CAN President Lisa Lacasse shares her views on the impact of advocacy on the cancer fight.

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What will it take for palliative care to be mainstream?

December 12, 2013

Š—“Palliative care suffers from an identity problem.Š— ThatŠ—'s the first line of an important article published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) today. In all of ACS CANŠ—'s work on the issue of palliative care, weŠ—'ve come to know too well that palliative care is misunderstood. Individuals often mistake palliative care for end-of-life care, or more frequently, donŠ—'t recognize the term palliative care at all. But, we also know that once people understand what palliative care is and how it can help them and their family, they overwhelmingly support it. There is a significant amount of existing research on how beneficial palliative care is for patients with advanced cancer and their families. This NEJM article gathers that research in one place, making the clinical, economic and political cases for providing palliative care at the time of diagnosis. Here is some of the evidence the authors cite:

  • Several studies have shown that when patients with advanced cancer receive palliative care alongside their standard oncology treatments they experience a significant enhancement in quality of life and possibly live longer.
  • Hospitals that offer palliative care reduce patientsŠ—' lengths of stay, decrease the number of admissions to the ICU and reduce lab and pharmacy expenses.
  • Patients who received palliative care consultations early on in their battle with advanced cancer reported receiving better management of their symptoms than patients who didnŠ—'t receive consultations.

In a tight budget environment in Washington, the authors make an important point about the appeal to lawmakers of r providing palliative care as a win-win from both a health and economic perspective: Š—“Providing palliative care at early stages meets the important aims of better health and improved care, all at lower cost.Š— ItŠ—'s no surprise weŠ—'re seeing growing bipartisan support for two pieces of legislation introduced in Congress earlier this year that would improve access to palliative care services. If passed, together these bills would establish workforce training incentives so more health care professionals are trained to administer palliative care, convene a summit to focus national attention on the issue and expand necessary research (like the studies described above) to establish an even stronger science base for palliative care. Since our Leadership Summit & Lobby Day in September, ACS CAN volunteers have been extremely successful at getting lawmakers from across the country to sign on and support these bills. You too can help us work to solve the palliative care identity crisis and make sure all people with serious illnesses and their families have access to palliative care when and where they need it by contacting your members of Congress today and asking for their support.