There is need to erase the strong stigma linked to palliative care especially among advanced cancer patients in order to make them see that it will mean improving the quality of their remaining life, rather than to view it as nearing death.

Studies have shown that early integration of palliative care actually allow terminally-ill patients to deal with their illness in a more comfortable way, even enabling them to enjoy the rest of their life.

Dr. Camilla Zimmermann, head of the division of palliative care at the University Health Network in Toronto, led a study that assessed the perceptions of advanced cancer patients towards palliative care.

The study had 48 cancer patients in their mid-60s and 23 caregivers as participants. Zimmerman said most patients and caregivers in the study saw palliative care as “being equated with death, loss of hope, dependency, and going into places you never get out of again.

“This is in stark contrast with the actual definition of palliative care, which is interdisciplinary care that provides quality of life for patients with any serious illness and their families, and that is provided throughout the course of the illness rather than only at the end of life,” she added.

On the other hand, 26 patients who received palliative care along with standard care, developed a better understanding for its purpose and emphasized the need for better explanation and reframing by health care practitioners.

They even suggested that ‘rebranding’ palliative care might be necessary to understand that it is a way to live a fuller life.

“Palliative care should not be framed as a last resort option,” agreed Dr. Anthony Caprio, a geriatrician and hospice and palliative medicine physician at Carolinas HealthCare System in North Carolina.

“These `nothing left to do’ conversations often frame palliative care as a way to help people die comfortably, rather than an approach to care that allows them to live with the highest quality of life for as long as possible.”

The 22 patients who only received standard care did not think it necessary to rename palliative care nor did they find it important to go for one. MIMS