Integrating palliative care into advanced cancer care
Being diagnosed with advanced cancer can be accompanied by a complex whirlwind of physical and psychological symptoms that have an important impact on an individual’s day-to-day functioning and quality of life.
To deal with the complexities of this situation, recent research suggests that integrating care provided by an interdisciplinary healthcare team – like a doctor and a nurse who both specialize in palliative care – can lead to a better quality of life and even longer survival.
Dr Bruno Gagnon is a family physician specializing in palliative care and a professor at Laval University in Quebec. He leads an active research program to study pain and other symptoms related to cancer. With the support of a grant from the Canadian Cancer Society, Dr Gagnon is evaluating how to best support people with advanced cancer using integrated healthcare teams.
He is testing whether building a large interdisciplinary team of healthcare providers (a nutritionist, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a psychologist and a social worker, in addition to a physician and a nurse who specialize in palliative care) can provide better care to people who have advanced cancer than a doctor and nurse alone. Participants in this study will receive a 12-week intensive care plan tailored to their needs from either a doctor-nurse team or an integrated healthcare team in a community health services centre.
Dr Gagnon expects that the interdisciplinary care team will provide the most benefit to people with cancer and their caregivers. In addition to improving the quality of life of patients, early care from an integrated team could reduce the number of times people with cancer need to visit specialists or emergency departments since many medical issues could be identified sooner.
Overall, Dr Gagnon’s research could lead to changes in the standard model of care for advanced cancer, in order to improve the patient experience and promote efficient use of healthcare resources.