Breast cancer and Hospice care 

When is hospice appropriate for breast cancer? Hospice benefits for cancer patients. 

Despite the significant progress in treating breast cancer over the years, the time may still come when patients with metastatic breast cancer start to consider the benefits of Hospice care. Hospice consideration can happen when curative treatment is unavailable, or the patient decides to end curative therapies on their own accord. When breast cancer has metastasized, treatment options become more limited or stop working altogether. At this time, patients with metastatic breast cancer may decide to turn their focus from treatment to comfort and quality of life. Hospice helps support these goals.

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When is it time for hospice benefits? 

Too often, patients and families wait to start hospice care until a patient’s final days or weeks. While hospice care is still beneficial at this time, patients are eligible to receive all the benefits and support of hospice care much earlier.

Metastatic Breast Cancer Goals of Care

With any treatment, it is always important to be on the same page as your physician regarding your quality of life expectations and care goals. When deciding to change or limit treatment, we advise patients to discuss options with their oncologist. Here are some questions to ask your doctor:

  • Is the purpose of continued radiation or chemotherapy curative, or is it only meant to extend life by a few weeks or months?
  • What are the expected side effects of that treatment?
  • What can we do to reduce those side effects?

When patients decide that the side effects of treatment aren’t worth the cost of their quality of life, they may cease this treatment. At this stage, they are choosing to focus on their quality of life and supporting that choice with the whole-patient support of hospice care. This decision is commonly and unfortunately misunderstood as the patient “giving up.”

How Hospice Care Supports Patients with Metastatic Breast Cancer

Unfortunately, patients and families are unaware of just how much support is available with hospice care. In addition to meeting medical and physical care needs, hospice care helps improve quality of life by addressing the patient’s emotional and spiritual concerns.

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Hospice provides a team of professionals to support patients who need end-of-life care. Nurses and hospice aides provide physical and personal care, focusing on pain and symptom management. Chaplains offer spiritual support. Social workers provide emotional support and can assist with family discussions and end-of-life planning. Volunteers are also available to provide companionship to patients while offering family caregivers the chance to take a break or run errands. 

Who pays for hospice care?

Hospice provides all medication, medical equipment, and supplies related to the patient’s hospice diagnosis at no cost to the patient and their family. This elite team of professionals provides care wherever the patient calls home, for instance, their residence, a family member’s house, a nursing home, or an assisted living facility. These team members unify every two weeks with the top brass, The Hospice Medical Director, to discuss changes and update the patient’s care plan.

Hospice care aims to provide end-of-life breast cancer patients with the highest possible quality of life so they can continue to have meaningful moments with the people they love.

Metastatic Breast Cancer & Hospice

Patients become eligible to receive hospice care as soon as they receive a prognosis of six months or less if their illness follows its typical trajectory. Once a patient with metastatic breast cancer stops treatment, the Hospice team will assess their eligibility. If the patient meets hospice criteria, care can begin right away.

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Varco Hospice offers a cancer care program designed to meet the disease management needs of patients on hospice for cancer. This program focuses on the challenges of managing a cancer diagnosis and providing individualized care based on the specific patient and that diagnosis to help enrich their end-of-life experience. Varco Hospice has specialized staff trained to help these patients and their families deal with all aspects of care throughout the process.

Other benefits hospice offers

Social workers can work with families to access additional resources and support. They can even help advise on funeral arrangements. At Varco Hospice and Home Health, our social workers support patient goals by planning a day where they can enjoy doing something they love or have always wanted to try. Volunteers work with patients to create a Life Journal, a beautiful hardcover book with photos and stories from the patient’s life.

Together, the team works to ensure we meet and surpass the patient’s care goals while managing symptoms to keep them comfortable so they can spend quality time with their family. As the patient’s needs increase, our team visits more frequently. Once our team recognizes the signs that death is approaching, a team member will activate our Continous Care (CC) program, remaining bedside to support the patient and their family through their final hours.

When someone with metastatic breast cancer is considering a change to a care plan, patients and healthcare providers must have an honest conversation about care goals, quality of life concerns, and personal preferences.

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