JOURNAL ARTICLE

Self-assessment in cancer patients referred to palliative care: a study of feasibility and symptom epidemiology

Annette S Strömgren, Dorthe Goldschmidt, Mogens Groenvold, Morten Aa Petersen, Pernille T Jensen, Lise Pedersen, Linda Hoermann, Carsten Helleberg, Per Sjogren
Cancer 2002 January 15, 94 (2): 512-20
11900236

BACKGROUND: Research in palliative care is considered difficult due to the poor health of patients. However, patient-provided data are essential for a thorough description of patient symptomatology and for the evaluation of care.

METHODS: The authors examined the feasibility of a questionnaire-based study using the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer quality-of-life instrument EORTC QLQ-C30, the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS), and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) in cancer patients who were receiving palliative care. This report describes the symptomatology of participating patients and examines differences in symptomatology between patients in three palliative care functions: inpatient, outpatient, and palliative home care.

RESULTS: Of 267 eligible patients who were referred to a department of palliative medicine, initial self-assessment questionnaires were obtained from 176 patients (65.9%). The 91 nonparticipants were older and had lower Karnofsky Performance status (KPS) values than the participants. Almost all participating patients suffered from impaired role function and physical function and had high levels of pain, fatigue, and other symptoms. According to the HADS, 47% of patients suffered from depression. Outpatients had better scores than inpatients and patients in palliative home care for physical function, role function, cognitive function, depression, and inactivity.

CONCLUSIONS: It is possible to carry out a questionnaire-based study of symptomatology in consecutive cancer patients in palliative care, achieving rather complete data from the participants. The symptomatology in these patients was very pronounced. The questionnaires were able to detect clinically important differences between places of service.

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