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The very nature of cancer affects quality of life, in terms of pain and debilitation, and also everyday of the person affected and their family. Palliative care for cancer patients focuses on addressing this.
Palliative care for cancer patients aims to help reduce and eradicate quality of life problems faced by patients and their families through treatment of pain and other physical, psychological and spiritual ailments.
The concept of palliative care is quite new in India; it was first introduced in the mid 1980s. With the aid of committed medical professionals and volunteers, along with the incentives of Government of India and other international organisations, palliative care for cancer patients was introduced in India.
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The early initiatives of palliative care for cancer patients were established in the city of Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, and Trivandrum in the late 1980s. The Indian Association of Palliative Care (IAPC), formed in consultation with the WHO and government of India as a national forum to connect individuals and institutes involved in palliative care, was a flagship programme for the development of palliative care for cancer patients in India.
Palliative care focuses more on the care of illness rather than the disease. The treatment encompasses the symptoms along with psycho-social and spiritual problems. Along with enthusiastic individuals devoted to make the concept of palliative care more popular in the country, there are several organizations that are working in this area to make palliative care more accessible to all.
Here are some of those organisations.
With a mission to ensure access to effective pain relief and quality palliative care, since 2003 Pallium India is delivering its efforts to suffering patients and their families. They believe that the patient is the most important consideration as ‘care’ is the right of the patient and family. It also works in an integrated way with Central and State Governments by integrating palliative care for cancer patients into the health care system. It promises affordable access to essential medicines like morphine and opioids. To work towards the rehabilitation of patients and families, they have established the Trivandrum Institute of Palliative Sciences (TIPS) in Trivandrum, Kerala.
The New York Times has summarized the achievements of Dr. M. R. Rajagopal, the founder of Pallium India in an article titled ‘In India, a Quest to Ease the Pain of Dying’.
Find out more at their website.
One of the most effective providers of palliative care for cancer patients in India is the Tata Medical Centre situated in the city of Kolkata. They provide symptomatic management and end-of-life care for patients, motivating them to live their lives to the fullest since 2011. It provides hospital based clinical care as well as emotional support to the cancer patients with enormous compassion. The Times of India has written about this centre in an article titled ‘A Place to stay for Cancer Patients’.
Delhites’ National Initiative in Palliative Care (DNipCare) is providing promising palliative care for cancer patients since 2008. It was established in Delhi by a group of dedicated young people. It aims at developing sustainable and cost-effective palliative care for patients.
DNipCare believes in ‘PRAN’ which defines ‘Patient Care’, ‘Rehabilitation’, ‘Awareness Generation’ and ‘Network Creation’. Alongside the development of local home care programs, they supply monthly food ration support to poor patients along with psycho-social and medical care. The Hindu, appreciating them wrote, “What is different about this group of dedicated people is that they not only give their time but also provide a human touch through personal visits”.
Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer (ACTREC) of Mumbai has brought light of hope to over 15000 patients with the aid of their exemplar palliative care for cancer patients since 1996. A team of doctors, nurses, psychologists and social workers provides free medical and psychological care for patients in their homes. They also furnish emotional support and guidance to members of the family of the patients to help them to deal with the crisis.
Nurse Jyoshna Kalasare of ACTREC told The Indian Express, “These patients are very weak and may suffer from different medical problems. We have to keep regular follow up to ease their pain. That is what palliative care is all about”.
Established in 2008, this premier institution for palliative care for cancer patients is located in the heart of Chennai. Focusing on providing relief from the stress of serious illness, it makes life of the patient and their family better with the help of an organised health service. They reach out to the all strata of society offering relief from ailments with the psycho-social care. Their aim is to improve the quality of life of patients rather than quantity. The Hindu reported, “The vision of the trust is to establish an exclusive hospital for palliative, oncological and geriatric care.”
The availability of a serene environment at this institution makes palliative care for cancer patients most effective. Sparsh hospice, established in 2011 and situated in Hyderabad, provides that in addition to necessary medical and emotional treatment in the last phases of cancer when there is nothing to do but make the sufferer as relaxed as possible. Their facilities include a modern, 50 bed building in green surroundings, with water bodies and open spaces.
“With a capacity of 12 beds, Sparsh spends about Rs. 3.5 lakh per month to provide food, accommodation and medicines to patients,” reports The Hindu.
In association with the Bangalore Hospice Trust, it is a home for terminally ill cancer patients in Bangaluru, the ‘Cancer Capital of India’ since 1995. They offer in-patient and home care facilities and education and tie up with CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives. They offer education, training and research to improve the application of palliative care for cancer patients.
Livemint acknowledged that “Karunashraya is the only stand-alone hospice in Bengaluru that provides a comprehensive set of services including in-hospice and home care while also running a six-month course to train nursing aides”.
Palliative care for gender patients in the north eastern region of India is offered by this Guwahati based institute, with discounted investigation and treatment, and free social and psychological counseling for cancer patients and caregivers since 1958. Their counselling process aims at complete elimination of emotional distress.
The Business Standard has recently announced that it “will be under the management control of Tata Memorial Center for Cancer, Mumbai which would provide healthcare and academic facilities on the same pattern and of the same standard as currently available in the Tata Memorial Center for Cancer, Mumbai.”
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