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Chemo Plus Palliative Care Reaps Benefits

For those with advanced cancer, teaching self-management and empowerment improves quality of life

TUESDAY, Aug. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Providing palliative care at the same time that advanced cancer patients are undergoing treatment improves their quality of life and mood, a new study shows.

It included 322 patients randomly selected to receive either usual cancer care or a palliative care program consisting of four weekly educational sessions followed by monthly sessions until they died or the study ended. The palliative program was designed to encourage patient self-management and empowerment.

The study appears in the Aug. 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The patients' quality of life, symptom intensity and mood were assessed at the start of the study, at one month, and then every three months until death or study completion.

The palliative care program "demonstrated higher quality of life, lower depressed mood, but limited effect on symptom intensity scores and use of resources in intervention participants relative to those receiving usual cancer care," Marie Bakitas of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., and colleagues wrote in a journal news release. "The intervention had no effect on the number of days in the hospital and ICU, the number of emergency department visits, or anti-cancer treatment because the proportions of participants in each group receiving these therapies were similar."

Regarding patients' symptom intensity, the researchers wrote that "there may be little room for improvement because usual care participants also reported relatively low symptom intensity scores compared with patients with advanced cancer in other studies. It may be unrealistic to expect to reduce symptoms further in the setting of progressive disease."

More information

The Center to Advance Palliative Care has more about palliative care.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, news release, Aug. 18, 2009

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