People going through intensive induction chemotherapy for AML are likely to experience significant side effects, disruption in quality of life and increased levels of anxiety and depression. Due to the impact AML and AML treatment have, researchers at the Duke Cancer Institute in North Carolina collaborated on a multi-site randomized trial comparing combined palliative and oncology care to the usual care that is typically carried out for hospitalized patients with AML receiving induction therapy. The patients who received integrated palliative care had improved quality of life, reduced depression, and reduced anxiety. Results from this study showed that facilitating positive coping styles was the major factor underlying how integrated palliative care seems to improve specific patient outcomes.
The word palliative care can often be confused with hospice care, and therefore be scary to talk about. Palliative care is actually much different than hospice. Palliative care refers to specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness, like AML. Patients working with a palliative care team often receive medical care for their symptoms and side effects in combination with treatment intended to cure their serious illness. Palliative care is meant to enhance a person's current care by focusing on quality of life for them and their family. This means that someone can receive palliative care and also be treated with the intent to cure their disease at the same time.
Hospice on the other hand is specific to end-of-life care. Hospice care focuses on the care, comfort, and quality of life of a person with a serious illness who is approaching the end of life.
A palliative care team is made up of many different healthcare professionals that work with the patient, family, and the patient's other doctors to provide medical, social, emotional, and practical support. The team is made up of a palliative care doctor and nurse, and can include other healthcare professionals such as a social worker, a dietitian, a psychologist and a chaplain. A person's team may vary based on their needs and the level of care required.
Receiving palliative care during induction chemotherapy can provide you with the medical, social and emotional support you need to endure an intense treatment. The researchers at Duke determined that palliative care works because patients are given the tools and resources they need to cope with their diagnosis and situation. The patients in the study who received palliative care reported more approach-oriented coping (active coping, positive reframing, and acceptance) and less avoidant-oriented behaviors (denial or self-blame).
If you or a loved one are starting chemotherapy or any intensive treatment for AML, you may consider having a conversation with your doctor about how palliative care can be involved.
about the author
Katie joined the HealthTree Foundation as the Community Director for AML in 2021. She is a registered dietitian who previously worked at the VA hospital in Dallas, Texas where she coached veterans with blood cancer on how to use nutrition to improve their treatment outcomes and minimize cancer-related side effects. Katie is passionate about health education and patient empowerment. In her spare time, she loves to experiment with new recipes in the kitchen, spend time running outdoors and travel to new places.