Ensure Palliative Care to Cancer Patients Past Treatable Stage: Experts
Even as cancer continues to post alarming rise in incidence, the tendency to subject patients to unnecessary treatment protocols, inflicting huge economical as well as psychological drain on them and their family has begun to gall experts.
There should be a stop to over-diagnosis and over-treatment when the disease is past treatable stage. Patients should be brought into palliative care so that they can enjoy improved quality of life sans the pain and suffering till their end, WHO Emeritus and Chief, Cancer and Palliative Care, Jan Stjernsward said.
Every doctor knows when the disease becomes untreatable. Thus, he should be sensitive enough to decide against continuing treatment when it ceases to have any meaningful effect. By ending treatment and starting palliative care, the doctor can not only stem further economical burden on the patient but also ensure peace and comfort in the last remaining time.
“Evidence shows early initiation of palliative care has resulted in better quality of life without symptoms of depression and helplessness in cancer patients in comparison to those who continued with therapy like chemo and radiation,” he said.
Jan, who structured the WHO Global Cancer programme and introduced palliative care into healthcare, was attending the 21st Annual International Conference of Indian Association of Palliative Care that concluded here on Sunday.
In view of the fact that more than 70 per cent of cancer patients in India are diagnosed in advanced stages when treatment is not effective, the WHO expert advocated intensification of efforts to integrate palliative care into the healthcare delivery system.
Lakhs of patients are forced to suffer unnecessary pain as the country severely lacks in provisioning of safe, effective and inexpensive drugs. Even more than half of the Government-run regional cancer centres do not have palliative care or pain management.
Palliative care should be made a people’s movement and should ensure coverage of all terminally ill patients. Care should be delivered at their homes, reducing use of hospital and emergency facilities.
“Kerala has become an example for the developing countries in making PC a people movement. While establishing high ethical standards for managing terminally ill, it has extended palliative care from tertiary to the grassroots and effective home care delivery. But the paradox is that the rest of the country is still largely apathetic to the issue. Thus, less than three per cent of terminally ill in India are deprived of minimum palliative care,” Jan said.
He also called for simplification of drug control laws like the NDPS Act to make effective opioids like morphine available to the needy patients. The Government should also promote generic drugs to be produced and supplied in needed quantity.