Dr. Lichtman Discusses Supportive and Palliative Care

Dr. Stuart Lichtman, from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Commack, Explains the Benefits of Supportive and Palliative Care.

Stuart M. Lichtman, MD, medical oncologist, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Commack, explains that the benefits of early intervention with supportive care for patients with cancer has gained greater recognition in recent years, especially in regard to the possible impacts on quality of life and longevity for patients.

The growing amount of active agents available to treat patients with cancer has resulted in the encouragement of keeping patients on active therapy for longer. Unfortunately, Lichtman notes, the real issue coming into play for many of these patients is end of life and palliative care.

In many cases, switching from an active therapy to supportive care will result in a longer life for the patient. Medicare analyses have shown that older patients with cancer receive a great deal of chemotherapy in the last few months of their lives, Lichtman expounds. In some cases, this added chemotherapy can be helpful, but most of the time it results in extra toxicity, costs, and a burden to both the patient and their family. Knowing when to stop active treatment and begin palliative care is an important and difficult decision.

Lichtman adds that in an era heralded by the rising costs of cancer care, palliative care is likely one of the most cost effective treatment decisions that a physician can make towards the end of life.