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Newly Published Booklet Addresses End of Life Care

How Do You Know When Palliative Care is Right for You or Your Loved One?

PHILADELPHIA, PA (April 13, 2004) -- The American Cancer Society and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) announce the release of Advanced Cancer and Palliative Care Treatment Guidelines for Patients, a new, free booklet designed to help advanced cancer patients and their loved ones understand and respond to the range of medical, psychological, social and other issues faced by patients in the last year of life.

Michael Levy, MD, PhD, vice chairman of medical oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center, chaired a panel of oncologists from the nation's leading cancer centers and members of the NCCN to develop the guidelines, which were translated into easy-to-understand language for patients by the American Cancer Society.

"In advanced cancer, aggressive anticancer therapy must be coupled with aggressive palliative care to optimize both quantity and quality of life," said Levy. "When further anticancer therapy is no longer effective, appropriate, or desired, comprehensive palliative care must be intensified to ensure the relief of suffering for both the patient and the family."

Palliative care is treatment that relieves symptoms such as pain, but is not expected to cure the disease. The main purpose of palliative care is to improve the patient's quality of life. Palliative care is given to patients at all stages of cancer. For example, medications given to relieve nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy are palliative care. But palliative care is most critical during the last year of life. This new booklet focuses on this time.

Advanced Cancer and Palliative Care Treatment Guidelines for Patients begins by explaining palliative care and the symptoms for which palliative care provides relief. Hospice and the cost of care are also addressed along with information about advanced directives. The booklet then explains the signs of approaching death, including breathing and sensory changes.

"At the end of life, satisfactory palliative care provides skilled pain and symptom control, avoids prolongation of dying, promotes a sense of control for the patient, relieves burdens and strengthens patient and family relationships," said Levy.

By following a step-by-step format, the patients and loved ones can learn how to set personal treatment goals and know what to expect. Much emphasis is given to the management of symptoms.

"As the distress and symptoms of a patient's illness progresses, it [palliative care] can offer hope and comfort on a day-to-day basis as patients and their caregivers struggle to understand and control the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual impact of their disease," explained Susanne Seeber, RN, MSN, AOCN, director of the Palliative Care Service at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

"For the first time in history, we are experiencing a downward trend in cancer diagnoses and deaths in the U.S. Progress made in cancer early detection and treatment increase both the likelihood of surviving a cancer diagnosis and the length of survival," said Ralph B. Vance, MD, FACP, president of the American Cancer Society. "Although decades of advances in early detection, diagnosis and treatment have significantly improved the chances of a patient surviving cancer, still over half a million Americans will die from the disease each year. The American Cancer Society, in collaboration with the NCCN, is pleased to announce these guidelines that enable patients and their families to make timely and informed decisions on how to maintain the best possible quality of life."

"By developing treatment guidelines for patients from the NCCN clinical practice guidelines we're empowering the patient and caregiver, while providing medical professionals with a more open and informed channel of communication through which to work," said William T. McGivney, PhD, chief executive officer of the NCCN.

Copies of Advanced Cancer and Palliative Care Treatment Guidelines for Patients are available free of charge in English and a soon-to-be-released Spanish version by contacting the American Cancer Society at or by calling 1-800-ACS-2345. Copies can also be obtained on the NCCN's web site at or by calling NCCN toll-free at 1-888-909-NCCN.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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