We compared the symptoms and distress of cancer patients being seen in a cancer center palliative care clinic. Most of these patients were receiving active cancer treatment and concurrently receiving palliative care treatments to help manage their symptoms. We found that sympomt levels were very similar for patients who had localized disease and those with metastatic disease. That is, physical symptoms, quality of life, and spiritual well-being were similar regardless of whether the patients’ cancer was localized or advanced.
Conclusion: Among patients referred to a cancer center outpatient palliative care clinic, symptom burden is similar in patients with localized and metastatic disease. Even patients with relatively good prognoses may nevertheless have significant symptom burdens in physical, emotional, and existential domains. The palliative care needs of all patients must be assessed, regardless of stage or prognosis.
Although not every patient with cancer will have symptoms similar to these patients being referred to a palliative care clinic, our study demonstrated that at least a sizeable minority of patients with curable cancers can still suffer as much as patients with advanced cancer who might be expected to die of their disease.
Having found significant unmet need among these cancer patients, the question remains what other patients have significant unmet needs that a palliative care clinic can help address?
Watch and share this five minute video about the need for prophylactic end-of-life conversations. Laura Heldebrand, an ICU nurse tells her mother's story.
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