Dr. Camilla Zimmermann

A good quality of life

The Benefits of Early Palliative Care

For many patients, the concept of palliative care has negative connotations and can sometimes provoke fear and anxiety. But Dr. Camilla Zimmermann says that doesn't need to be the case.

“Palliative care is about improving quality of life throughout the illness course and not just support for a good death.”

Dr. Zimmermann, Head of the Palliative Care Program at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, was the Principal Investigator on a randomized cluster study of early palliative care for patients with advanced cancer.

The study looked at 461 patients from 42 cancer clinics, with a prognosis of six months to two years, to see if adding early palliative care treatment, alongside regular oncology care and active chemotherapy treatments, could improve their quality of life.

“Rather than only ensuring a good quality of death, what we're trying to ensure is that patients also have the best possible quality of life while they're still getting active treatment and while we're still trying to prolong life,” says Dr. Zimmermann.

The clinical trial, published in The Lancet in 2014, showed early palliative care intervention leads to improved quality of life, symptom control and satisfaction with care. The findings have influenced standard of care around the world.

The next phase of the study will focus on triaging patients to determine who could benefit most from early palliative care through symptom screening.

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