Improving care for advanced cancer patients

A new study is aiming to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of people with advanced cancer through timely and routine access to palliative care services.

VCCC Palliative Medicine Research GroupPictured: Professor Jennifer Philip (front middle) and the Palliative Medicine Research Group 

The study, led by the University of Melbourne and St Vincent’s Hospital, will work to remove barriers within the hospital system for individuals with advanced cancer to access palliative care services.

Individuals with progressive illness have highlighted needs including symptom relief, information, support for those around them, and assistance with decision making – all needs that are addressed through palliative care.

The evidence shows that palliative care works. When people access these services early they report having fewer symptoms, having a greater understanding of what is occurring and more involvement in decisions about their care. Furthermore, families also benefit through themselves receiving more support.

However, many Australians do not currently access palliative care, and for those who do, it is often very late in their illness, limiting their ability to take full advantage of its benefits.

Professor Jennifer Philip, Chair in Palliative Medicine, University of Melbourne Centre for Cancer Research and St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, is leading the project which has received $1.06 million from the Australian Government Medical Research Future Fund.

“Addressing issues faced and facilitating timely access to palliative care is a complex task. It covers not just recognition of the stage of the illness by clinicians, but also issues around language and communication, and even societal attitudes to advanced illness.”

“Research has confirmed the positive impact of palliative care in improving symptoms and quality of life, reducing anxiety, and helping people with cancer to be at home if that is their preference. Studies have also suggested that palliative care helps people to live longer within this context. We are working to improve equity in receiving the best quality care.

“This study will take a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to navigating issues and concerns, to ensure those who may benefit, will have access to palliative care in a timely manner.”