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Posted: September 12th, 2022

Cancer Patients Receiving Palliative Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Cancer Patients Receiving Palliative Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges for the delivery of palliative care to cancer patients. Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life of patients with life-limiting illnesses and their families by addressing their physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs. However, the pandemic has disrupted the continuity of care, increased the risk of infection and mortality, and created ethical dilemmas and psychological distress for both patients and health care professionals.

One of the main challenges is how to balance the need for face-to-face contact with the risk of exposure to the virus. Many symptom control issues can be managed by telephone or video consultations, but some situations require urgent evaluation and management of severe complications of cancer, such as spinal cord compression, GI obstruction, brain metastases, or major bleeding (ESMO, 2020). Moreover, some patients may prefer to receive palliative care at home or in hospices, rather than in hospitals where they may feel isolated or overwhelmed by the COVID-19 situation. However, home care services may be limited or unavailable due to staff shortages, lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), or transportation difficulties. Therefore, it is important to identify patients with high palliative care needs and arrange appropriate services for them whenever possible (ESMO, 2020).

Another challenge is how to provide holistic care that addresses not only physical symptoms, but also emotional, social and spiritual needs. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and existential distress among cancer patients and their families, as well as among health care professionals. The restrictions on visitation and social support, the uncertainty about the prognosis and treatment outcomes, the fear of dying alone or infecting others, and the ethical dilemmas regarding resource allocation or rationing decisions are some of the factors that contribute to this psychological burden (Schoenmaekers et al., 2020). Therefore, it is essential to offer psychosocial and spiritual support to patients and their families, as well as to health care professionals who may experience moral distress or burnout. This can be done through regular communication, empathy, validation, information sharing, coping strategies, advance care planning, bereavement support, and referral to specialized services when needed (Schoenmaekers et al., 2020).

In conclusion, palliative care for cancer patients during the COVID-19 pandemic is a critical and complex issue that requires a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach. Palliative care teams should adapt to the changing circumstances and prioritize the most urgent and essential aspects of care while maintaining safety and quality standards. Palliative care should also be integrated early in the course of illness and throughout the continuum of care to optimize the quality of life and well-being of patients and their families (Palliative Care Australia, 2020).

Works Cited

ESMO. (2020). Cancer Patient Management During the COVID-19 Pandemic | ESMO. Retrieved from https://www.esmo.org/guidelines/cancer-patient-management-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/palliative-care-in-the-covid-19-era

Palliative Care Australia. (2020). Palliative care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Retrieved from https://palliativecare.org.au/palliative-care-during-the-covid-19-pandemic

Schoenmaekers J.J.A.O., Hendriks L.E.L., van den Beuken-van Everdingen M.H.J. (2020). Palliative Care for Cancer Patients During the COVID-19 Pandemic, With Special Focus on Lung Cancer. Frontiers in Oncology 10:1405. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2020.01405

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