The preliminary findings at the 2016 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting in Chicago, raises concerns for clinicians and researchers that there is substantial overuse of aggressive care for patients with incurable cancers, even after ASCO issued recommendations in 2012 encouraging physicians to reduce aggressive end-of-life care, according to the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, in an article written for the Chicago Health. The article also states a national health claims analysis of cancer patients who were younger than age 65 with metastatic disease revealed that nearly 2/3 were admitted to the hospital or visited the emergency room in the last 30 days of their lives and nearly 1/3 died in the hospital.
If faced with a life-limiting illness, at some point a decision may have to be made-not about ceasing all care, but about weighing the benefits of a certain course of treatment against the burdens of that treatment. While advanced medical care (including aggressive treatment) can do wonders for some people, it can also become exhausting and counterproductive. “Overuse of aggressive care at the very end of life for a cancer patient can translate to increased burden on patients and their families. If these treatments are making patients sick, and if patients continue to go to the hospital, this can reduce their ability to really spend time with their loved ones at the end of life, and to get the most time out of the life that they do have left” says Aaron Falchook, M.D., a resident in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Radiation Oncology.
Hospice care discussions should happen much sooner with patient’s rather than later, when the individual may only have weeks left. Studies have shown that hospice can help patients by ensuring the best quality of life, at the end-of-life. Hospice patients even sometimes actually live longer than they would with conventional care. This means extra weeks or months with family and friends. Too many individuals are not taking advantage of the hospice benefit that is available to them. Hospice can help you understand the nature of your illness, the likely outcome of your current course of treatment, and what may happen next. If you or a loved ones health continues to worsen despite aggressive treatment-it may be time to consider this alternative. Hospice, a different kind of care, centered on palliative care, which is the management of pain and symptoms so that every moment can be as comfortable and rewarding as possible.
For questions about hospice or to schedule a consultation, call us today! 702-636-0200