Dr. Andrew Esch, MD, MBA
Dr. Esch is a medical education consultant to the Center to Advance Palliative Care. A palliative care specialist, Dr. Esch focuses on improving the quality of life for patients and their families as they face serious illness. Dr. Esch earned his medical degree from the University of Buffalo.
When you’re facing lung cancer, you have to cope with a lot following the shock of the diagnosis. You have to consider everything from making complex treatment decisions and managing side effects and symptoms to planning for an uncertain future. The impact on you and your family can understandably cause immense distress.
With an oncology team focused on treating your disease, it’s important to know about other specialists who are there to address your quality of life. I’m speaking of palliative care, which is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses such as lung cancer. Palliative care specialists relieve your symptoms and stress, and help you match your treatment options to your goals. The goal is to improve quality of life for both you and your family. You can have palliative care at any age and at any stage in your illness, and it can be provided along with all other treatments.
The leading professional cancer organization, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, strongly recommends that those with advanced cancers have access to palliative care early, along with active treatment. Many studies show the benefit of this combination of care – for the patient and for their family.
Palliative care is provided by a team of palliative care specialists, including doctors, nurses, social workers and others. The team is brought in by a referral from your doctor and it works in partnership with your oncologist and other healthcare providers.
How Palliative Care Helps with Lung Cancer
Because palliative care is family-centered, it incorporates your family as well. First and foremost, the palliative care team is concerned with making sure that you and your family live life to the fullest from the time of diagnosis onward.
When chemotherapy is part of your treatment, you may experience side effects such as nausea, vomiting, pain, fatigue, constipation and diarrhea. Radiation therapy for lung cancer sometimes makes it difficult to eat while also causing pain and fatigue. Palliative care can help manage these issues.
Palliative care also can be helpful in managing postoperative pain. It can help reduce anxiety, fear and depression in a variety of ways ranging from medication to massage, relaxation and guided imagery.
Members of the palliative care team are specially trained in communication and support. Patients can discuss their issues, fears and concerns with the team while getting help through talk therapy, medications, resources and relaxation strategies.
Palliative care teams can help you and your family plan for the future and offer practical advice about talking to loved ones.
How to Get Palliative Care
If you or a loved one needs palliative care, ask your doctor for a referral. You can also find a palliative care team in your area at GetPalliativeCare.org/providers.
If you want to learn more about how palliative care can help manage the challenges of lung cancer, please join me on a free Webinar on August 8 at noon (Eastern Time). You can also visit www.getpalliativecare.org.