There are three distinct theories on what is meant by palliative care. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to adequately define these concepts in the clinical realm because they all involve treating symptoms, rather than finding a cure. Here is one common definition of palliative care that might be helpful to understand the different theories that support it:
To explain the difference, it helps to remember high school chemistry: A formula is either a plus or minus. Cancer is either cancerous or benign. In medicine, the focus is on finding methods of dealing with the symptoms and not on finding a cure. For example, while doctors may treat a patient with chemotherapy, there is no guarantee that the body will continue to make normal cells if chemotherapy is stopped. This is why it is called “interventional radiology.”
There is also a need for differentiation between palliative care and patient care when it comes to pain management. While the goal of most hospitals and clinics is to offer pain relief to their patients, this is not always possible. Pain relief can take the form of prescription medications, physical therapy, deep breathing exercises, and other options. In fact, it can even come in the form of offering the patient ways to cope with stress and the reality that some days the disease may never go away. When these things are offered to cancer patients, they often find that they have more positive experiences than when offered prescribed pain medications.
When it comes to palliative care in the hospital, doctors use many of the same diagnostic procedures that they do to treat cancer. For example, end-of-life care involves monitoring a person’s vital signs under a tight security guard and offering symptom-specific care based on those readings. The goal is not simply to reduce symptoms, but rather to extend life as much as possible based on the readings. These diagnostic procedures are often accompanied by cardiopulmonary resuscitation or coronary artery bypass surgery. In some cases, hospital patients may be given radioactive compounds or other forms of treatment to help them cope with the final stages of their illness.
But this type of palliative care in the hospital is limited to a very small number of patients. Since most end-of-life procedures are offered to only those who are extremely ill, most patients do not get to enjoy these opportunities. In addition, this type of care does not offer treatment for secondary illnesses that arise as a result of the primary illness. This can include pneumonia, heart problems, blood clots, seizures, or other serious side effects from cancer or other conditions that can arise over the course of a person’s illness. For these patients, complementary and alternative medicine may be the best option.
There are two types of palliative care in the healthcare setting: traditional and hospice care. The goal of both is the same: to improve the quality of life of patients who are at the end stage of their lives. Both employ medical and non-medical treatments to lessen discomfort, increase the quality of life, and provide the necessary support to the patient. (In fact, many people prefer to visit a hospice facility instead of a traditional hospital because they feel more comfortable with the atmosphere and the support offered.) The primary difference between the two is the focus on relieving symptoms and prolonging survival instead of curing a disease.
While it’s true that palliative care offers relief from intense physical pain, it should not be mistaken for a cure. The primary goals of this approach are improving quality of life for those patients who are suffering, as well as reducing the physical disabilities associated with incurable diseases. This type of care also involves several interventional radiology techniques including endoscopic ultrasound, percutaneous laser surgery, and chemotherapy. It is important to note that all patients should be under the care and supervision of a highly trained palliative care team in order to ensure quality care.
There are several limitations of palliative care that must be recognized. First, patients receiving this type of care must be committed to receiving it, which can be challenging given the fact that many people choose not to take part in such care. Second, patients must recognize the value of the procedure and adhere to the treatment plan. Finally, when involved in interventional radiology procedures, patients must be cooperative in order to maximize the benefits of the treatment plan.