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Palliative Care For Head And Neck Cancer Patients: Enhancing Quality of Life

Palliative care plays a crucial role in the management of head and neck cancer. It provides essential support and improves the overall well-being of patients. Head and neck cancer can be complicated to cure and dangerous since it affects basic body functions including breathing, swallowing, and speaking.

Palliative care focuses on treating these symptoms and improving the patient’s quality of life. In addition to helping with pain management, it provides dietary advice, speech therapy, psychiatric counselling, and spiritual support. By addressing their emotional and psychological needs, palliative care also helps patients, and their families cope with the physical and emotional stresses brought on by this malignancy. Patients with head and neck cancer can benefit from increased comfort, better communication, better symptom control, and higher quality of life by including palliative care in their treatment strategy.

Symptom management in head and neck cancer

For people with head and neck cancer, symptom management is a crucial factor in achieving a higher quality of life. This approach aims to reduce the effects of various symptoms experienced through the journey of this disease. Neck pain, swallowing issues, dry mouth, taste changes, speech difficulties, and mental distress are just a few of the symptoms of head and neck cancer.

“There are two different types of treatment options: pharmacological therapy, which includes anti-inflammatory and painkiller pharmaceuticals, and non-pharmacological techniques include speech therapy, swallowing exercises, and dietary counselling. Another treatment option is palliative care, which involves supportive care measures like psychological support, relaxation techniques, and complementary therapies that help in addressing emotional and psychological challenges,” says Dr Malhotra.

A comprehensive treatment plan involves the combination of both therapeutic and palliative care, which ensures optimal symptom control and promotes the overall well-being of patients with head and neck cancer.

Importance of emotional and psychological support for cancer patients

Emotional and psychological support are of utmost importance to the overall well-being of cancer patients. Cancer patients often experience a range of intense emotions, such as fear, anxiety, and depression. “Healthcare providers help alleviate these negative emotions and promote a sense of security, comfort, and resilience. It enables patients to cope with the physical and emotional challenges of cancer, enhances their quality of life, and promotes better treatment outcomes,” adds Dr Malhotra.

Cancer patients need regular counselling to process their feelings, manage stress, and develop effective coping strategies. Emotional and psychological support helps empower cancer patients, fostering hope, resilience, and a sense of control during a difficult and uncertain time.

How is palliative care different from other treatment options?

Palliative care differs from other treatment options in several ways. “Palliative care strives to enhance the quality of life for people and their families who are suffering from serious diseases, as compared to curative treatments, which concentrate on removing or treating the underlying disease through medical intervention,” opines Dr Malhotra.

It addresses physical, emotional, and spiritual needs by managing symptoms, relieving pain, and providing emotional support. Dr Malhotra states, “Palliative care also takes a holistic approach, considering the patient’s overall well-being and incorporating their values, preferences, and goals into the care plan. Unlike aggressive medical interventions, palliative care emphasizes patient-centric care, promoting comfort, dignity, and the highest possible quality of life. It can be provided alongside curative treatments, and it does not require individuals to forgo other treatment options.”

Myths among people regarding palliative care

Palliative care is surrounded by several myths and misconceptions among the public. One common myth is that palliative care is only for dying people, but we should understand that it focuses on improving the quality of life for individuals with serious illnesses, regardless of their life expectancy. Palliative care does not mean giving up on treatment; it means providing support alongside the curative therapies available.  Palliation of symptoms and supportive therapy starts from the diagnosis of disease, palliative support if sought at early stages is known to improves survival.

There is a myth that palliative care is only for the patients who are in the last stages of the disease, whereas its goal is to enhance comfort and respect individual wishes. Palliative care is a cost-effective approach to managing serious illnesses. Addressing these myths is crucial to ensure that individuals receive the appropriate care and support they need.

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