Kavitha Ramchandran, MD, a medical oncologist and clinical associate professor of medicine at Stanford University, discusses the role of palliative care for patients with cancer, particularly those with advanced stage disease.
Palliative care is an important part of care for patients with cancer, says Ramchandran. It is important to assess patients’ needs early and often, to understand their needs, as well as the needs of their caregivers and families, and to meet patients where they are at in term of taking care of those needs.
To meet the needs of patients, physicians can often do so within their own practice by prescribing opioids and other medications when needed and having a social working see patients. However, the need can often be greater than what can be provided in the clinic, says Ramchandran. In this scenario, a patient should have a palliative care specialist involved in their care.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) guidelines recommended all patients with advanced disease have integrated palliative care specialists involved in their care from diagnosis, as well as for the patients’ caregivers and families. However, Ramchandran says it is often difficult to find these resources outside of the academic cancer center setting.