Palliative treatment is fundamental for controlling the symptoms of a chronic disease in the advanced stage and also to enhance the quality of life of the patient and his or her next-of-kin. In Brazil, the aging of the population and the rise in the incidence of cancer have made sick people lacking palliative care an issue with tremendous social impact and increasing importance in terms of public health. In our country we do not yet have a palliative care structure that is adequate to handle the existing demands, both from a quantitative and qualitative point of view.
The Cancer Foundation has been engaged for a long time in trying to overcome this scenario. In 1998 it provided support for creation of the Oncologic Therapeutic Support Center, currently Cancer Hospital IV (HC IV), an INCA unit devoted exclusively to patients beyond the possibility of cure. And among the projects now underway, we are searching for installations to set up a palliative care unit in the central region of Rio de Janeiro and also are looking to build a model unit on land already acquired for this purpose, located in the district of Vargem Pequena, in the city’s Western Zone.
The WHO estimates that at least 80% of deaths due to cancer and other life-threatening diseases correspond to patients in the terminal phase that could benefit from palliative care. Out of every 1 million inhabitants of Earth, around 1,000 patients per year need palliative care. Although this calculation may be an under-estimate, since it only reflects the need for care in the terminal phase, it is nonetheless still a good reference regarding the need for palliative care.
In the State of Rio de Janeiro, taking into account INCA’s estimates for 2014 (and still valid for 2015) – excluding the cases of non-melanoma skin cancer – the number of patients requiring palliative care per year, from the time of diagnosis, is around 12,576 in the state capital and 27,816 in the rest of the state. As next-of-kin who provide care should be included among those benefitting from this type of treatment, the demand doubles, that is to say, 25,152 in the capital and 55,632 out-state.