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Palliative Care Important From the Start of Cancer Treatment

Palliative Care Important From the Start of Cancer Treatment

SHEFFIELD, England—Sam Ah-medzai, MD, chair of palliative medicine at the University of Sheffield, England, believes that palliative care is an important aspect of cancer treatment right from the time of diagnosis. In the World Health Organization’s cancer treatment model, he said, palliative care is typically reserved for a patient’s final weeks, but he believes that palliative care should underpin all treatment from the start.

“I would suggest that we reject the classical curative active model versus the palliative model,” Dr. Ahmedzai said at a special session of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting. “We need to consider the needs of patients and caregivers alongside anti-cancer therapies.”

The WHO model, he said, implies a supremacy of curative care over palliative care, that it’s more important to cure than it is to palliate. It also implies that there is a clear transition in treatment, “that one only moves into palliative care when one is finished with curative treatments,” Dr. Ahmedzai said.

The Sheffield Model

The Sheffield model of palliative care, developed at Dr. Ahmedzai’s institution, promotes the idea that palliative therapies are important from the very beginning of treatment until the end. “If you take the very large view, as in the Sheffield model, palliative therapies are included alongside rehabilitation, social work, chaplaincy, dietetics, and all the things that support the patient and the family, while the oncologist is treating the disease with curative and life-prolonging therapies,” said Dr. Ahmedzai, who is also editor-in-chief of the international journal Progress in Palliative Care.

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