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Improving Patients’ Quality of Life Through Palliative Care

Article date: February 22, 2011

Society Honored for Research, Education Efforts

It’s no secret that cancer and its treatment can cause unpleasant symptoms and side effects in many patients, which can seriously affect their quality of life. Controlling these is a prime concern for anyone facing cancer and for the people helping take care of them.

The American Cancer Society is being honored for its efforts to help in this area, a field known as palliative care.

Society Chief Medical Officer Otis Brawley, MD, accepted a Presidential Citation Award from American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM) in a weekend ceremony. The AAHPM is the professional organization for physicians specializing in hospice and palliative medicine.

Helping Patients Live Better

Palliative care is focused on helping patients and their families have better quality of life by preventing and relieving troubling symptoms and side effects of serious illness. In the case of cancer, palliative care can address such problems as pain, nausea and vomiting, poor appetite and weight loss, constipation, bowel blockage, breathing problems, and even emotional concerns like depression and anxiety.

“We know this is important to relieve suffering and address the growing symptoms and stress burden for the nation’s rapidly rising number of patients, survivors, and family caregivers facing serious illness like cancer, heart failure, and lung disease,” Brawley said when accepting the award.

Palliative care can be given at any stage of illness. It is also a part of hospice care, which is given near the end of life.

Dozens of Research Grants Funded

“Your efforts to foster and fund palliative care research; educate the public on the benefits of palliative care for persons living with serious or life-threatening illness; and promote effective healthcare policy that improves quality of life for persons living with cancer and other serious illness are just a few of the reasons why the American Cancer Society is so deserving of this recognition,” the president of the AAHPM Board of Directors, R. Sean Morrison, MD, FAAHPM, wrote in a letter announcing the award.

The American Cancer Society, in collaboration with the National Palliative Care Research Council, has funded 51 palliative care research projects worth $7 million since 2007.

The Society also funds numerous other palliative care research projects aimed at helping improve patients’ quality of life. For instance, the Society is currently supporting follow-up work by Jennifer Temel, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital. Last year, Temel and her colleagues published a study showing that lung cancer patients who received palliative care not only had better quality of life, but actually lived nearly 3 months longer than those who didn’t get palliative care.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the Society’s advocacy partner, is also working to make palliative care a higher priority in the nation’s healthcare system.


Reviewed by members of the ACS Medical Content and News Staff

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