Palliative care has been gaining momentum in the medical community as a critical step for many terminally ill patients. For mesothelioma patients in the advanced stage of their cancer, turning to palliative care, which focuses on relieving symptoms and keeping the patient comfortable, offers them an opportunity to spend more time with their loved ones during their end of life.
Mesothelioma is one of the most aggressive and deadliest forms of cancer, with limited treatment options. Symptoms may not appear until up to 50 years after initial exposure to asbestos, the only known cause of the disease. However, once symptoms become apparent, mesothelioma may rapidly progress to cause life-threatening complications. The prognosis for mesothelioma patients is grim with the average survival time varying from 4 – 18 months after diagnosis.
Now, according to a new study from the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC), mesothelioma patients may have more palliative care options available to them. CAPC reports the number of U.S. hospitals with palliative care teams increased for the 10th consecutive year. In 2010, there were 1,635 palliative care teams in hospitals in the United States, for an increase of 4.3% over 2009. CAPC reports palliative care has been one of the fastest growing trends in health care over the last ten years, growing nearly 150% since 2000.
66% of American hospitals now have palliative care teams. Hospitals in the northeast region of the U.S. have the highest percentage at 75.8%. The southern region of the U.S. offers the fewest palliative care options with just 52.7% of the hospitals reporting palliative care teams.
CAPC attributes the growth of palliative care “to the increasing number of Americans living with serious and chronic illnesses and to the caregiving realities faced by their families.”
In a separate study, Massachusetts General Hospital researchers attributed palliative care to increased survival rate among advanced lung cancer patients. The researchers cited improved mood and quality of life, as well as appropriate end-of-life care, for the improved survival rates.
MGH employs palliative care teams consisting of physicians, nurses, social workers and chaplains trained to help patients and their families facing terminal illness cope with the psychological and spiritual aspects of their disease, as well as managing symptoms.