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Palliative care reduces morbidity and mortality in cancer

Abstract

Despite improvements in cancer therapies, cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide. Many patients experience severe, unnecessary symptoms during treatment as well as at the end of life. Often, patients receive 'aggressive' care at the end of life that is discordant with their preferences. Palliative care is an approach that focuses on communication and quality of life, including treatment of physical, psychosocial, and spiritual suffering. This approach is appropriate for patients with life-limiting cancer, throughout the course of their disease. A growing body of evidence supports the integration of palliative care into routine cancer care, owing to the benefits in symptom control, quality of life, patient satisfaction, and resource utilization. Palliative care can be delivered in inpatient, outpatient, and home-based settings. The specialty and associated infrastructure is expanding rapidly with support from the international medical community. The ideal model of how to incorporate palliative care providers into the care of patients with cancer is yet to be defined; future research is needed to develop delivery systems and improve access to palliative care services. Through collaboration between oncologists and palliative care teams, there is hope of improving the quality of care for patients with both curable and life-limiting cancers.

Key Points

  • Patients with cancer often undergo aggressive care that is discordant with their preferences

  • Palliative care enhances communication, quality of life, symptom control, patient satisfaction, and resource utilization

  • Palliative care can be delivered in hospitals, clinics, and home-based settings

  • Palliative care can help patients receive care consistent with their personal goals

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Figure 1: Model of palliative care for patients with cancer.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the NCI grant CA095817-06.

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Both authors researched data for the article and made a substantial contribution to discussion of the content. G. B. Roque wrote the manuscript, and both authors reviewed and edited the text prior to submission.

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Correspondence to James F. Cleary.

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Rocque, G., Cleary, J. Palliative care reduces morbidity and mortality in cancer. Nat Rev Clin Oncol 10, 80–89 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrclinonc.2012.211

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