Cancer patients hospitalised for palliative reasons. Symptoms and needs presented at a university hospital

E Astradsson, L Granath, P A Heedman, H Starkhammar
Supportive Care in Cancer 2001, 9 (2): 97-102
The aim of this study was to identify patients in need of palliative care in 11 different care units with a total of 256 beds at Linköping University Hospital and to look at their overall situation with respect to assessed symptom control and quality of life. There were 46 patients fulfilling the two criteria of incurable cancer and need for palliative care, and each was assessed with the aid of a questionnaire (five oral questions on life situation) and a single visual analogue scale (VAS) about their overall quality of life (QoL). Each patient also assessed him- or herself on the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS). Total ESAS scores ranged from 20 to 639 mm (median 211). Median VAS scores (100 mm = greatest symptom severity) were as follows: nausea 6 mm, pain 9 mm, anxiety 17 mm, depression 18 mm, drowsiness 35 mm, activity 38 mm, appetite 45 mm, and sensation of well-being 46 mm. The median score for QoL was 47 and correlated well with the total ESAS score. Thirty-seven patients answered the open question "What in your current situation troubles you the most?". Seven patients answered "nothing", and 10 said "the present symptoms". Twenty patients had different concerns (existential, social, and psychological). The low number of hospitalised patients found reflects a well-functioning hospital-based home-care unit. Reduced appetite, sensation of well-being and activity were dominant, while pain and nausea were less intense. The simple QoL-VAS seemed to be comparable to ESAS, which is more useful for assessing each single symptom. The non-physical dimensions need more attention in the future in order to achieve totally satisfactory palliative care.

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