Managing patients with advanced cancer: the benefits of early referral for palliative care

Ian E Haines
Med J Aust 2011; 194 (3): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2011.tb04189.x
Published online: 7 February 2011

Palliative care is becoming fundamental in the starting line-up of care choices

For Australian patients with advanced, incurable illness, particularly cancer, the option of referral to specialist palliative care services can seem to be a random and discretionary default option that is sometimes called on when all possibilities for life-extending treatment have been exhausted or cannot easily be accessed. Palliative care services (distinct from palliative chemotherapy) provide a broad range of inputs to patients and their carers and loved ones, including specialised medical and nursing management and advice on symptom control; psychological, emotional and spiritual support; practical nursing care; advice and assistance with goal setting and end-of-life care; and bereavement counselling and support. Despite offering these and other unique strategies in the field of cancer management, these specialist palliative care services sometimes stay on the substitute’s bench until called on late, when all else has failed.

  • Monash University at Cabrini Health, Melbourne, VIC.


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