|CANCER & TREATMENTS FOR CANCER CENTER PATIENTS PREVENTION & RISK ASSESSMENT CLINICAL TRIALS & RESEARCH LIVING WITH CANCER|
Means for a Better End:
Research shows supportive care may extend and improve life for people with advanced cancer, con't
"We encourage families to talk to their oncologist about these issues early in their cancer care to alleviate the burdens of decision-making -- both for patients and families -- if a person's condition worsens," said Suzette Walker, N.P.-A.O.C.N.P., co-director of the Symptom Management & Supportive Care Clinic. "We realize how difficult these conversations can be, but it's essential to have an open, ongoing dialogue so that patients have the opportunity to define and redefine what's important to them as their condition changes over time."
These conversations are very important to both patients and families, Urba said. Sometimes, patients feel the need to keep "fighting" the cancer for family members. Families also can suffer anxiety and depression related to treatment decisions if a patient becomes unable to make them for himself.
By working with a team of supportive care specialists, caregivers receive assistance in helping to keep their loved ones more comfortable as the disease progresses. Social workers are available as well to help deal with emotional concerns.
"Sometimes when we talk with families about hospice, people think it means giving up or that they're making a decision between living and dying. But that decision is out of their hands," Urba said. "We may not be able to control when we die, but we can decide how to live -- whether the time we have left is 10 days or 10 years."
Communicate your wishes
Talking about end-of-life care is difficult, but it's important to make your wishes known -- even if you don't have an incurable form of cancer. Having honest discussions earlier in your life can lessen stress and anxiety for both patients and families later.
This article first appeared in the Fall, 2010 issue of Thrive.
University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center
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