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The Importance of Palliative Care

Thursday January 9, 2014

Palliative care is not a new idea, but it is gaining new attention. This increased attention is due to more research showing that palliative care benefits patients and that there is a growing need for it.

In our society, sometimes people are scared to talk about palliative care. We don’t want people to think, ‘Oh, you’re talking to us? Does that mean I’m dying?’ A lot of people think that palliative care is end-of-life care, and that’s not necessarily true.

Palliative care is a philosophy of care that aims to relieve suffering and improve the quality of living and dying. The goal of palliative care is to provide holistic, proactive, timely, and continuous care that supports patients to live as they choose and optimize their health, comfort, dignity and security. Palliative care is especially important for cancer patients when they find trouble with breathing, pain, or upset stomach from getting cancer treatment.

The need for palliative care has two aspects: we want to make palliative care more accessible to meet the growing demand and we also want to make sure that it is available to patients early in their cancer journey.

Earlier is better. Studies show that introducing palliative care options early can help patients in many ways. In 2010, researchers found that patients with some cancers who received palliative care earlier, had a better quality of life, less depression, and they lived longer (11.6 months versus 8.9 months). Its studies like this that tell us we need to educate people about palliative care.

Anybody with an advanced cancer should talk about palliative care earlier in their care so they know what it is and what it can do for them. At Regional Cancer Care Northwest, patients from remote communities have access to a new Aboriginal Patient Navigator. The navigator is a supportive resource who can help you with questions, and can translate for you in Ojibway, Oji-Cree, and Cree. She could also be helpful in talking about palliative care options.
The Aboriginal Patient Navigator can also help you by:

• supporting you before, during or after clinical appointments;

• linking you to other services you can use;

• setting up tele-visits with remote family members;

• giving you information and educational handouts;

• helping you when you have questions about your care; and

• helping you when you are ready to go back home after treatment.

We can’t think of palliative care as end-of-life care. Rather, it’s a palliative approach to care that invites us to be part of our care team. Palliative care helps keep hope alive because patients feel more support by a larger care team. Not only does this mean better patient and family centred care, but it also means that we are approaching to care for the patient as a whole.

If you want more information on palliative care or cancer care, contact the Aboriginal Navigator by calling (807) 684-7200 ext. 4324 or email

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