Early integration of palliative care leads to better quality of life for patients with advanced cancer diagnosis, a new study suggests.


Palliative care is a multidisciplinary medical and nursing approach given to people with life-limiting disease. The care is mostly focused on pain management, and relief from other physical and mental stress.


Researchers, led by Dr Lucy Ziegler, from the University of Leeds’ Academic Unit of Palliative Care investigated when patients should receive such care and for how long to result in better quality of life.


Dr Ziegler has noted that studies in the past have already established that palliative care does result to reduction in emergency cases and more deaths that took place at home.   


In the study, the researchers included 2,479 patients who died of cancer between January 2010 and February 2012, 64.5 percent of them had access to palliative care support. They looked at the associations between the time the patients underwent palliative care and their quality of life.


The researchers found that patients who received palliative care about two weeks before their death died in a hospital. In comparison, those who received care at least four weeks before their death had fewer hospital admissions.


“Our research shows that for those with advanced cancer, access to palliative care and longer duration of care are significantly associated with better end of life quality indicators,” said Dr Zeigler.


In addition, 62 percent to 86 percent of patients experience moderate to severe pain before death, and early access to palliative care meant that patients have access to strong opioids for pain relief.

“Palliative care initiated more than 32 weeks before death was associated with a reduction in chemotherapy in the last four weeks of life,” according to a release from the university.


“Our study provides new evidence to support the early integration of palliative care for cancer patients,” said Dr Zeigler, noting their findings could help policy makers into developing a palliative care that is integrated earlier.


The study is published in the journal BMJ Open. MIMS