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Palliative Care Improves Cancer Patient’s Quality of Life

Update Date: Feb 19, 2014 11:52 AM EST

Palliative care is a type of medical care that is focused on relieving pain, symptoms and stress for patients provided by medical healthcare professionals. In a new study, researchers compared the effects of early outpatient palliative care and standard oncology care. The researchers found that for patients afflicted with different cancers, early palliative care improved their quality of life and helped boost satisfaction levels.

For this study, the research team headed by Dr. Camilla Zimmermann recruited 461 patients who were from 24 medical oncology clinics at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center, University Health Network (UHN). The patients suffered from gastrointestinal, genitourinary, breast and gynecologic cancers. 228 of the patients were divided into the early-intervention group whereas the remaining patients received standard care. The intervention group received monthly consultations with a palliative care team as well as phone follow-ups.

The researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial that consisted of patients who had a prognosis greater than half a year. The researchers measured the benefits from early intervention palliative care based on life quality, symptom control, satisfaction with care and any issues with medical interactions. The participants were given a baseline survey and all received the same level of clinical care for four months.

After three months, the researchers reported that patients experienced an improvement in their quality of life. At four months, the patients also experienced clinically meaningful improvements. In terms of patient satisfaction levels, the patients from the intervention group showed improvements at months three and four whereas the patients from the control group did not.

"Another important outcome is that patients reported improved satisfaction of care. We found that patients appreciated having a team of professionals available to provide additional support navigating the cancer system and coping with multiple medical and social issues," Zimmermann, Head, Palliative Care Program, UHN, and Medical Director, Al Hertz Centre for Supportive and Palliative Care at the Princess Margaret, said.

Zimmermann added, reported by Medical Xpress, "The traditional view of palliative care is end-of-life measures but over the past 10 years, specialized palliative care has been evolving into finding ways to improve quality of life earlier on. Our study results can help map the way forward. The key outcome validates that quality of life improves with the core intervention of seeing a physician and nurse with specialist palliative care training once a month in the outpatient clinic."

The findings were published in The Lancet.

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