This may be news to some who think supportive care comes later in patients’ treatment journeys. But it’s appropriate at any time, and there are many benefits to starting it early.
Seeing healthcare professionals who focus on symptom management and supportive care improves outcomes and is critical for a patient’s quality of life. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) strongly recommends that symptom management and supportive care should be provided early in a patient’s diagnosis as well as during and after treatment.
Following diagnosis, supportive care can help patients:
- Feel better: At diagnosis, patients may have side effects and symptoms like fatigue, nausea or pain. Supportive care can help patients manage these issues, so they can start feeling better sooner and to help them tolerate treatment. And, getting support as these issues arise may help prevent future problems or complications.
- Fight the cancer: Supportive care aims to strengthen patients’ physical and emotional well-being, placing them and their loved ones in the best position to fight the disease.
- Handle difficult emotions: A pancreatic cancer diagnosis can spark a range of feelings for both patients and their family members. They should talk to their healthcare team about getting help for any emotional concerns. The healthcare team can recommend counseling, support groups, journaling and other ways to cope.
- Set treatment goals: Supportive care can help create and address both the patient’s and family’s goals as well as ensure the goals are followed. These goals can focus on any or all of the following: prolonging life, managing treatment side effects well and ensuring peace and dignity throughout the cancer journey.
- Communicate more openly: Healthcare professionals can help best when they understand the concerns of their patients and their loved ones. Discussing supportive care with the healthcare team lets patients and family members express their thoughts, concerns and goals. This open communication can help set the tone for future conversations and help patients receive the personalized care they need and deserve.