JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Early palliative care for patients with advanced cancer: how to make it work?

Jan Gaertner, Vera Weingärtner, Jürgen Wolf, Raymon Voltz
Current Opinion in Oncology 2013, 25 (4): 342-52
23736875

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: As the benefit of early palliative care for the quality of life of patients with advanced cancer is currently receiving widespread recognition, cancer specialists increasingly inquire about the practical implications of this concept. This publication presents the available information about how to provide early palliative care for patients with advanced cancer.

RECENT FINDINGS: Oncologists and other cancer specialists provide general palliative care from the time of diagnosis of incurable cancer together with the patients' family doctors. This includes basic assessment of symptoms and distress, their initial management as well as sensitive communication with the patient, including advance care planning and end-of-life issues and hope. The additional integration of a specialized palliative care team early in the care trajectory has been found to be beneficial for quality of life and survival. This concept is known as 'early palliative care' or 'early integration' and has become recommended by institutions such as the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

SUMMARY: Palliative care is warranted from the time of diagnosis of incurable cancer. From this early stage, palliative care consists of general palliative care provided by cancer specialists and family doctors and additional support of a specialized palliative care program. Guidance from different guidelines is presented alongside practical recommendations derived from our experience with an early palliative care program for comprehensive cancer care over the last 7 years.

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