Factors Associated with Early Referral to Palliative Care in Outpatients with Advanced Cancer

Deepa Wadhwa, Gordana Popovic, Ashley Pope, Nadia Swami, Lisa W Le, Camilla Zimmermann
Journal of Palliative Medicine 2018, 21 (9): 1322-1328

BACKGROUND: Although timely palliative care is recommended for patients with advanced cancer, referrals to palliative care services are often late.

OBJECTIVES: To identify factors associated with early referral to an oncology palliative care clinic and to describe symptom severity according to timing of referral.

DESIGN: We conducted a retrospective review of 337 patients with advanced cancer referred to outpatient palliative care at a comprehensive cancer center. We gathered data related to patient demographics, diagnosis, and referral. Timing of referral was categorized as early (>12 months before death), intermediate (6-12 months before death), or late (<6 months before death). Ordinal logistic regression was used to determine factors related to referral timing, and the Kruskal-Wallis test to determine symptom severity in each referral timing category.

RESULTS: Of the 337 patients, 232 (69%) referrals were late, 60 (18%) intermediate, and 45 (13%) early. On multivariable analysis, earlier referral was associated with earlier primary cancer diagnosis (p = 0.004), and referral for pain and symptom management (p = 0.001). Patients who were referred late had worse overall Edmonton Symptom Assessment System distress scores, as well as worse tiredness, nausea, drowsiness, appetite, and wellbeing (all p ≤ 0.001). Severity of pain, shortness of breath, anxiety, and depression did not differ based on time of referral.

CONCLUSIONS: A longer disease course and referral for symptom management were associated with earlier referral, whereas overall symptom burden was higher for late referrals. Further research is required on combining symptom screening with timely referral to improve symptom management in advanced cancer.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"

We want to hear from doctors like you!

Take a second to answer a survey question.