Palliative Care for terminally ill cancer patients

Thu, 2012-07-05 00:44 — editor
By Dr. Upul Ekanayake, Consultant Clinical Oncologist, Teaching Hospital, Karapitiya



“I am reminded of all the good deeds that I did in my life…I realize that I am not completely alone in the world and I am relieved now”. These are the parting words of a terminally ill cancer patient at the end of the visit of the home based palliative care team attached to the Cancer Care Association-Galle branch. After a few days he passed away and his family felt that his last few days were peaceful. 

A terminally ill cancer patient is someone at an advanced stage of cancer when a cure is not possible with active treatment. They would survive usually a few days or a few months which is a very difficult time period for both the patients and the family; physically, emotionally and in certain instances financially. These patients should be ideally kept in a Hospice and be provided with symptomatic treatment and emotional support which are called Palliative Care.

Palliation includes nursing, pain relief measures and counseling and spiritual development of the patient. Palliative care includes the members of the family as well. In other words Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life of a terminally ill cancer patient which makes the patient physically and emotionally comfortable.

According to the Cancer Unit of the Teaching Hospital, Karapitiya, in 2010 there were 1702 cases of new cancer patients. Fifty seven percent of these cases were females while the rest were males. Out of them, twenty percent were recommended for palliative care.

Unfortunately some of these patients who need palliative care are being treated at the Cancer Unit of the Teaching Hospital; Karapitiya as there is no Cancer Hospice in the Southern province. Owing to this situation problems arise in the already overcrowded wards.




Some of the terminally ill patients are discharged from the hospital to spend their last few days at home with their families. However, both the patients and family members face severe hardships in trying to deal with the situation that they come across.

In the absence of a Hospice in Galle district, the Galle branch of the Cancer Care Association (CCA), a non-profit organization which was established by Dr. Samadhi Wishvanath Rajapaksa in 2003, decided to form a home-based palliative care team for the first time in Sri Lanka to serve the terminally ill patients and their families. The Bank Account Nos. of the CCA are 8290025562 and 1290025562 at the Battaramulla Branch of Commercial Bank.

The team has been in operation for the past 8 months to date. At present, it comprises of 8 volunteers qualified in medication, counseling and spiritual development skills. They cover a cross section of the society. With the Consultant’s recommendation and the consent of the patient and the care givers prior to being discharged from the hospital, the home based palliative care team is brought into action. They visit the patient and provide symptomatic treatment such as nursing care, pain killers and Intra-venous fluids, nutritional support, training for the care givers as to how to make the patient more comfortable in life, counseling for both the patient and the family members who care for the patient and provide support for emotional wellbeing through spiritual activities such as chanting of pirith and meditation.

Along with the increased awareness about the home- based Palliative Care Team and their services, the demand for the same from the patients is increasing. However at present the team can serve only the patients who live in an area of around 30km radius from the city of Galle as they use a private vehicle that a voluntary member of the team has contributed towards this worthy endeavor. Thus it leaves out a majority of the patients in the Southern province especially in distant rural areas such as Deniyaya and Tissamaharama.

The major obstacle that the team is facing at the moment in broadening their geographical reach is an affordable means of transport for the team of 5-7. The Cancer Care Association earnestly and urgently seeks the support of magnanimous people for the provision of a vehicle for this worthy cause.

The Cancer Care Association can be contacted at No. 56, Munasinghe Mawatha, Galawilawatte, Homagama, Sri Lanka, Tel: 3155229/0773409787; Email: and more information can be obtained from

– Asian Tribune –