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Dr Toby Campbell Explains Patient Understanding of Palliative Care Remains Limited

Patients and families can still have a limited understanding of palliative care, which may mean they have an open mind toward the suggestion, said Toby C. Campbell, MD, MSCI, associate professor of medicine, hematology-oncology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.


Patients and families can still have a limited understanding of palliative care, which may mean they have an open mind toward the suggestion, said Toby C. Campbell, MD, MSCI, associate professor of medicine, hematology-oncology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and chief of Palliative Care and program director of the Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship Training Program.

Transcript (slightly modified)

How early in the cancer care process can palliative care be introduced?

Palliative care, ideally, comes up pretty early actually. We know from the research that the earlier we talk about integrating palliative care into the management of an individual and their family’s cancer care, the better the outcomes are. So when we see improved symptom management, when we see improved adherence to advance care planning and goals of care, when we see people live longer, that’s when we’ve brought it up early.

Early can be at any time that someone has a serious illness to face. It might even be a curable problem, bone marrow transplant, for example, or it might be a metastatic end-of-life issue, but I think really if you want to realize the true benefits of palliative care, you’ve got to give these providers time to work with the patients and families.

Has patient and caregiver understanding of palliative care changed over time?

Patients and families have a pretty limited understanding of palliative care. In general, when surveys have been done, patients and families are neutral on the topic. Generally speaking, the majority of individuals have never heard the term before.

So I think oncologists can rest assured that some patients will have a familiarity with palliative care, but that most will have a very open mind about it or actually may have no concept of what the term means at all, giving the oncologist the opportunity to introduce it in the way that makes the most sense for them. Bringing up strategies such as symptom management or an extra layer of support, can be easy ways to get into a conversation about palliative care.

 
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