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Cancer Doctors Urge Earlier End-of-Life Care Talks
Date:1/25/2011

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- People with advanced cancer should be told what end-of-life care choices are available earlier in the course of their disease, a new policy statement from the American Society of Clinical Oncology recommends.

Unfortunately, these options are sometimes presented only days before death, reports the statement, published in the Jan. 24 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

"There's a growing body of evidence that we can and should do a better job communicating with our patients with advanced cancer," said statement author Dr. Jeffrey M. Peppercorn, an associate professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. "There's no one-size-fits-all approach to cancer care, but patients need to be empowered. They need to know that there are options, in most cases, for disease-directed therapy, palliative therapy directed at symptom management and clinical research trials."

Currently, the authors of the statement estimate that fewer than four in 10 cancer patients are having these types of candid discussions about all of their treatment options. What's worse is that these conversations might not be taking place until days or weeks before a patient's death.

However, these conversations should happen much earlier in the course of the cancer, according to Peppercorn. And, he added, there's some evidence that by adding supportive or palliative care to disease-directed therapies, not only is quality of life improved for patients, but they might even live longer.

Peppercorn said that "these conversations are very difficult. It's much easier for a doctor to look ahead and be optimistic when delivering treatment, but the delivery of high-quality palliative care is more difficult. We're hoping that statements, such as this one from ASCO, empower patients and doctors."

The main recommendations from the new
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