A New Hope in Palliative Care

Chandan Kakoty, suffering from gallbladder cancer - is undergoing treatment at Assam Cancer Care Foundation's Palliative Care Unit located at SCI – Guwahati. He speaks to us about his experience of being treated through the specialized modality of palliative care to get quality life and a pain-free existence

Chandan Kakoty, suffering from gallbladder cancer - is undergoing treatment at Assam Cancer Care Foundation's Palliative Care Unit located at SCI – Guwahati

After keeping unwell for some time, Chandan had done a few tests as advised by doctors at Guwahati in December 2020. Much unexpected – the reports suggested gallbladder cancer! Often the smaller size and location of the organ make it easier for the cancer to grow undetected. There may be no symptoms and if at all symptoms occur, it may include abdominal pain, bloating and fever.

His family took no time to take him to a renowned cancer centre at Hyderabad, where the biopsy reports confirmed the disease. Chandan's treatment began in mid-December with the first cycle of chemotherapy. His health deteriorated post discharge from hospital. "The second cycle was advised a week later but, my health worsened, and I had to be hospitalized. I was very weak and could not take the chemo on scheduled date", he said. Staying far away from home and with mounting out of pocket expenses, the days were getting tough for survival and they returned to their hometown.

This is quite a common story and patients are unable to continue with their treatment.

By this time Chandan was in severe pain, had breathlessness and was unable to walk. However, he did not give up and visited ACCF Palliative Care Unit (PCU) located at State Cancer Institute – Guwahati. Palliative Care is a specialized caregiving approach aimed at improving the quality of life of patients suffering with serious, and complex illness.

After meeting the team led by Dr Dipankar Dakua at ACCF PCU – Guwahati, Chandan's treatment started on December 26. He says "I feel much comfortable now. I have been on wheelchair for some time and now am able to walk. The team is communicating with me and counselled my family too. Also, the PCU is much closer to my home at Majirgaon in Kamrup Rural with a travel time of one hour and treatment is free of cost. I am thankful to SCI and the PCU team of ACCF for all the help and support."

Not many palliative centres are available in the country. To cater to the requirements of people in the state, ACCF has established Palliative Care Units at AMCH – Dibrugarh; SCI – Guwahati; JMCH – Jorhat, and many more units will follow across Assam.

Palliative medicine offers a model of care, that is based on the control of the disease and its symptoms coupled with psycho-social and spiritual support. The World Health Organization recommends starting palliative care from the point of diagnosis. However, many still have the perception that it is meant to be at the last or dying phase. This delusion will have to be removed and the benefits of early palliative care integrated with cancer treatment needs to be brought into practice. Awareness is required at large so that patients and their families rightfully demand palliative care during course of treatment.

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