Palliative care needs in hospitalized cancer patients: a 5-year follow-up study

The aims of this study were to describe and compare diagnoses, symptoms, and care needs in palliative cancer patients in two medium-sized hospitals in a county council with no specialized palliative care available 24/7; to analyze the relationships between diagnosis and symptoms/care needs; and to compare results and trends from two datasets (from 2007 and 2012).

The study was population-based with a cross-sectional design and was conducted at two acute care hospitals. We performed 142 one-day inventories (n = 2972) in 2007 and 139 in 2012 (n = 2843) to register symptoms, care needs, and diagnosis based on a questionnaire. Multiple logistic regression models were used in the analysis.

During 2007 and 2012 combined, 10% (n = 589) of hospitalized patients were assessed as having cancer in a palliative phase. Prostate (12%) and colorectal (12%) cancers were most common. Pain (42%) and deterioration (42%) were the most prevalent symptoms and were associated with pancreas cancer in our regression models (p = 0.003 and p = 0.019, respectively). Other cancers had different associations: hematologic malignancies were associated with infections and blood transfusions (p < 0.001), breast cancer with pleurocentesis (p = 0.002), and stomach/esophagus cancer with nausea (p < 0.001). Nausea was more common in women than in men (p < 0.01). The mean number of symptoms/care needs was 2.9; patients with stomach/esophagus cancer had the highest number of symptoms/care needs (3.5).

Acute care hospitals still play an important role for patients requiring palliative care. Symptoms and care needs were not strongly associated with specific diagnoses. Therefore, symptoms, rather than the specific cancer diagnoses, should be the focus of care.

Supportive care in cancer : official journal of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer. 2017 Jul 19 [Epub ahead of print]

A Sandgren, P Strang

Center for Collaborative Palliative Care, Department of Health and Caring Sciences, Linneaus University, SE-351 95, Växjö, Sweden. ., Department of Oncology-Pathology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm and Stockholms Sjukhems FoUU, Stockholm, Sweden.