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Improving Palliative Care for Cancer
across the spectrum of care, including cancer prevention, cancer control, rehabilitation, palliation, and end-of-life care (President’s Cancer Panel, 1998). The report states:
The quality of care provided to dying patients remains woefully inadequate and is a major failure of our health care system. Dying patients frequently face abandonment by their physicians and inadequate pain and other symptom control when treatment with curative intent is no longer tenable.
The PCP developed its report after a series of meetings around the country, at which a wide range of individuals—from the medical treatment and research communities, industry, the advocacy community, and the public at large—presented testimony about the quality of cancer care in the United States. Those who spoke about palliative and end-of-life care reinforced earlier findings (PCP, 1998):
Speakers emphasized the need for a compassionate and humane system of care for cancer patients at the end of life, including improved financing of hospice care, expanding the availability of palliative care approaches from hospice programs to cancer centers (including offering palliative care as an option in all clinical trials), establishing a focal point for palliative care research at the NCI, improving health care professional education about palliative care, and fostering more honest health professional and public dialogue about dying. A number of respected organizations, including the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the Institute of Medicine, and the World Health Organization, have developed reports and accompanying recommendations to address the deeply ingrained obstacles to compassionate end of life care for people with cancer. However, implementation of these recommendations and their integration into the standard of care is slow.
Among the panel’s recommendations, the following relate to training and research in end-of-life and palliative care:
Training is needed to improve the ability of physicians and other health professionals to…:
Acknowledge that death and end of life issues are a part of the cancer experience for some patients, and provide more comprehensive and compassionate care to dying patients and their families.
The panel also stated:
Continued funding across the research spectrum is needed to continue the flow of discovery that leads to improvements in care across the cancer continuum. Research efforts should focus particularly on improving interventions in the areas of cancer prevention, cancer control, rehabilitation, palliation, and end of life care, and on outcomes research. In addition,