June 18, 2012 8:22 am

Hospice Care for Cancer Patients

Mitch Roberts: Dr. Kris Gast joins us this morning from Fort Smith Radiation Oncology, she’s here to talk about hospice care for cancer patients. Good morning to you.

Dr. Kris Gast: Good morning.

Mitch Roberts: Why don’t we start off with you telling us why hospice care is so important for cancer patients and how we can help them out with some information on that this morning.

Dr. Kris Gast: Well I think a lot of patients and families have a misrepresentation of what hospice care is. There’s actually two branches of hospice care now. There’s general hospice where the patient is cared for, they’re terminally-ill, it is the only Medicare benefit that is covered in the sense that the patients are eligible for both medicines, equipment, 24/7 days a week care and post-care for the family after the patient passes. The main thing about hospice is that it takes such good care of patients in the process of the end of their life no matter what they’re diagnosis. The criteria for Medicare is that they have less than six months to live based on what their physician has assessed. The other branch of hospice care is called palliative medicine. It’s completely different in the sense that there’s no limitation in terms of diagnosis. This is just basically a extra layer of care for patients to have that have a very serious illness and it helps keep them and their family better cared for. It’s an extra asset for them on top of their regular patients.

Mitch Roberts: Ok we were wondering exactly if we could break down the difference between hospice and the palliative care you’re describing. Sometimes when a family is facing the death of a family member it is so tough for everyone to weed thru all the information and decide what’s the best step and what’s needed for each individual family might be different than the next family.

Dr. Kris Gast: Palliative medicine is for patients who are undergoing treatment of any type, they have a multiple list of diagnosis ranging from heart failure to COPD, Alzheimer’s patients, cancer patients as well. Those patients aren’t necessarily expected to be terminal. They’ll be going thru active curative treatment. But it’s just an additional branch of medicine that helps take care of them while they’re doing that. Hospice medicine is specifically for the end of life care. When patients are at the end, they’ve gone thru everything and it’s time to help them passionately and compassionately get thru to death basically.

Mitch Roberts: Well I know the clinic also has some updates they’d like to share with people, when it comes to women with diabetes and certain medications. I know you want to share that with folks this morning. The medication is Metformin? Do I have that correctly pronounced?

Dr. Kris Gast: That’s correct. It’s a very commonly used medicine for diabetes and there was a study that came out just last week that was a very large study, it was part of the Women’s Initiative Group. The data from that, which was almost 70,000 women in it showed that women who were taking Metformin actually had a 25% lower incidence of breast cancer. So, Metformin is a good medicine, it has lots of side effects but it’s always nice to find out when you have an actually good side effect.

Mitch Roberts: Yea, you always here those commercials on TV with every side effect in the world that you wouldn’t want. Finally, you bring us a good news story. Well we certainly appreciate that. For more information or questions if you’d like to email Dr. Gast, you can do so at bfitzpatrick@fsro.net. Dr. Gast is a monthly guest on 5 Sunday Morning, we’ll see her again in July. She is now the exclusive oncologist for Health Connections and soon to be on 5 Noon News Online. Dr. Gast thank you very much for joining us.


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