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AML Patients Benefit From Palliative Care

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Published on June 15, 2020

"Palliative care is a sophisticated medical specialty where people undergo training in how to assess and manage symptoms with tools beyond what a typical doctor would have at their disposal," says Dr. Thomas LeBlanc, an acute myeloid leukemia (AML) specialist from Duke Cancer Institute.

Watch as Dr. LeBlanc discusses the benefits of palliative care, addresses common misconceptions and explains why AML patients should be discussing it with their medical team.

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Transcript | AML Patients Benefit From Palliative Care

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Dr. LeBlanc:

So palliative care is specialized medical treatment for patients and families facing a serious illness. It's often misunderstood as being only about the end of life or maybe only being about something like hospice care, which really is actually an insurance benefit mostly. But palliative care really is now a sophisticated medical specialty where people undergo training in how to aggressively assess and manage symptoms with tools beyond what a typical doctor would have at their disposal. So there are many studies now, very high-quality randomized clinical trials showing that adding a palliative care specialist to the cancer care team can dramatically improve the experience of patients and families who are dealing with the cancer that's being treated. And it may be a cancer that we are expecting to cure or hoping to cure.

So there have been significant benefits shown in patients undergoing bone marrow transplant, for example, by adding palliative care to the transplant team, or it could be a setting where maybe we know we can't cure the cancer, but that we're hoping we can significantly prolong life and improve or maintain quality of life with ongoing even maybe aggressive cancer treatment and then any, and all of those situations, adding a palliative care specialist to the mix can really help to provide an extra layer of support that helps a patient and family deal with the physical symptoms, the emotional distress, and all of the other difficulties that go along with having a serious illness.

So I strongly recommend that anybody facing a cancer diagnosis ask their oncologist about a referral to a palliative care specialist, and to make sure that you're able to answer the question of why do you want that? Because actually many of us, many oncologists and hematologists and other kinds of clinicians mistakenly think that palliative care is really only for when you're not doing treatment anymore, or only when we're talking about end-of-life scenarios. So sometimes we actually have to even educate my colleagues and each other about how palliative care really is not an either/or, it's not something you do when you're not doing treatment, but it's really an “and with,” to improve and enhance the care that the patient and family are receiving and to improve their overall experience of serious illness.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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