Completing the continuum of cancer care: Integrating life-prolongation and palliation


  • Dr. Ira Byock MD

    1. Byock is Director of the Palliative Care Service and Research Professor of Philosophy at the Practical Ethics Center, the University of Montana, Missoula, MT
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Cancer care extends from diagnosis through the late stages of advanced illness as patients confront dying and their families cope with caregiving and grief. Palliative care is a rapidly developing area of clinical focus that offers valuable services to patients in terms of symptom management and adjustment to illness, including issues of life completion and life closure. It is often appropriate to offer certain elements of palliative care early in the course of illness. As disease progresses, physical comfort and enhancing quality of life increasingly become primary goals of cancer care. Specialized palliative care programs, epitomized by hospice, are invaluable resources for patients with far-advanced illness and their families. Current regulations and prevailing payment structures limit access to and the scope of hospice services and highlight the need for innovative models of delivering and financing palliative care.