Early and often: Promoting early integration of pediatric palliative care for seriously ill children with cancer.
Pediatric palliative care, despite substantial overlap with its adult counterpart, is also distinct in some ways. Serious illness and comorbidities are less common in children, for whom there is a stronger presumption toward aggressive treatment. This, along with impressive cure rates for pediatric cancer, can help explain why children typically survive for a longer period of time following initial palliative care consultation. Though many of the studies demonstrating benefit of integration of palliative care early in the course of the disease for seriously ill patients rather than near or at end-of-life were conducted in adults, similar findings have been documented for children with serious illness. Several barriers to early integration exist, however, including misperceptions that palliative care constitutes "giving up" and concerns about potential role confusion with the primary team. By directly addressing these misperceptions and challenges, it is possible for palliative care and oncology to work in constructive partnerships that will benefit children with cancer and their families.
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