EuropaColon Portugal Advances Metastatic Colorectal Cancer Palliative Care Services
In November 2020 EuropaColon Portugal was awarded the Wolfram Nolte Memorial Award for its project aiming to improve the lives of people requiring palliative care due to metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). Although delayed due to the pandemic and the increased general support needs of patients, the project has gotten off to a good start along with attracting the support of a number of other sponsors.
“The ‘acceptance’ of the fact that your life is coming to an end is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges all human beings face,” explains Vitor Neves, President, EuropaColon Portugal. “In the case of mCRC, when medical interventions can no longer make a difference, helping people move towards this acceptance, is a great goal that can increase a person’s dignity and inner growth.”
“Over the years our organisation has observed that the Portuguese National Health System sadly doesn’t have the capacity to regularly attend to citizens, patients, survivors, family members and caregivers, particularly those with advanced stages of cancer,” continues Vitor. “This year alone, it is estimated that around 56.000 patients will be in the palliative care stage without specific support from the National Health System. The project is working to tackle this very real challenge – to alleviate suffering and provide valuable support to patients, carers and families through this very difficult phase.”
Aim of the Project and its Progression so Far
As outlined when EuropaColon Portugal received the award, the original aim of the project was to organise home visits and phone calls to patients and carers living in six districts in Northern Portugal.
In order to provide the appropriate care, the first phase of the project has been to define the optimal support needs of palliative care patients. These have been set out as follows:
- Assessment of the quality of life of the patient and family/caregiver and determine the type of intervention required
- Promote the involvement of the entire family/caregivers in the correct follow-up of the patient’s daily life
- Motivate people towards a positive and realistic emotional attitude
- Provide the family and patient with the necessary tools to deal with patient/family relational needs
- Check the ‘efficacy’ of treatment mainly in reducing ‘pain’
- Help in the individual management of symptoms and ‘bridge’ with the hospital system in order to improve, to the limit, the Quality of Life of patients
- Improve communication levels: patient/health professionals and patient/family or caregiver
- Evaluate possible burn-out predictions of caregivers and include them in the Europacolon Portugal and DICE support program
Putting Together a Team of Experts
Another focus has been on putting together a team of experts, who can contribute their knowledge and efforts towards its success. The project is being coordinated by the psychologist André Louro who is overseeing a multidisciplinary team that includes the patient’s senior oncologist, psychologists, nurses, nutritionists, social and legal support and communication and administrative managers.
The project is currently monitoring 15 patients undergoing palliative care. Along with helping patients that are Members of EuropaColon Portugal, the team is also working on raising awareness among the local health centres and hospitals, in order to encourage them to refer patients to this help and support. It aims to reach 50 patients and 100 carers or relatives per year and, if unimpeded by the pandemic, this number of patients will be supported throughout 2022.
“EuropaColon Portugal hopes to continue this project beyond 2022, which is largely a question of continued funding,” concludes Vitor. “The project, in addition to monies received via the award, also thankfully received the support of Novartis, Pierre Fabre and Roche. So we’ll see what the future holds, hopefully more patients, carers and families assisted in their moments of great need.”
We wish Vitor and his team all the very best for the positive continuation of this important work.
Would you like to know more about this project or the Wolfram Nolte Memorial Award? Please contact us.