Integrating palliative care into oncology

25th February 2020

There is strong evidence that specialist palliative care integrated into oncology care improves patient outcomes but few clinicians are familiar with the standards, guidelines and quality measures related to integration. Until recently integration occurred near the end of life when patients had few or no options for treatment. 

But a growing body of evidence has highlighted the benefits of adding palliative care earlier in the course of illness for patients with cancer.  Translating this evidence into guidance for busy clinical teams, particularly where there is inconsistent access to palliative care services inspired researchers to assess the different standards and guidelines around the world. 

The team recommend a few evolutions.  These include clinicians looking beyond disease severity and prognosis to the distress experienced by patients and their caregivers, looking at their symptom burden and impairment in physical function, and adopting a palliative care approach that puts the person before the disease.

Kamal AH, Bausewein C, Casarett DJ, Currow DC, Dudgeon DJ, Higginson IJ.  Standards, guidelines, and quality measures for successful specialty palliative care integration into oncology: current approaches and future directions.   J Clin Oncol. 2020 Feb 5:JCO1802440. doi: 10.1200/JCO.18.02440. [Epub ahead of print]