Dr Sophia Smith Advocates for Introducing Palliative Care as Early as Possible

Palliative care should be introduced as early as possible, even as early as diagnosis, so patients hear about it early and not during a late stage of their disease when they might need hospice, Sophia K. Smith, PhD, MSW, associate professor at the Duke School of Nursing, said at the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Annual Meeting.

Transcript (slightly modified)
How early in the cancer care process should palliative care be introduced?
As early as possible. We talked a lot today about some of the stigma involved with palliative care terms, such as hospice, and the feeling is among providers that the earliest it's introduced, even at diagnosis, and palliative care is introduced as a way to provide symptom management and psychosocial supportive care to the patient throughout the trajectory. And that way the patient hears about it early on and it's not thrown at the patient late in their disease process when, perhaps, their condition has deteriorated and they need to seek out specialty services, like hospice.

So, I'm a big proponent of having the discussion early on, and that way the patient can take advantage of the services as well. Palliative care is not just hospice—hospice is just one form of palliative care. Palliative care really, if it's done right, it's done across providers, by a multi-disciplinary team that's focused on the entire patient, and not just their disease. So it's all about "how do we maximize quality of life throughout the cancer trajectory?"
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