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Lung cancer patients receiving palliative care had improved quality of life, extended survival
Date:8/18/2010

Integrating palliative care early in the treatment of patients with advanced lung cancer not only improved their mood and quality of life, it also extended their lives. In the August 19 New England Journal of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators report that patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who received early palliative care along with standard treatment lived more than two months longer than patients receiving standard care only. Metastatic NSCLC is difficult to treat, and patients typically are expected to survive less than one year.

"For me as an oncologist, results like this are incredibly exciting," says Jennifer Temel, MD, of the MGH Cancer Center, the paper's lead author. "We showed that adding the services of a care team focused on quality of life and not altering patients' cancer treatments could both enhance and extend life in patients with an incurable cancer diagnosis. These findings are very promising, and we are already taking steps to examine the impact of early palliative care in other situations."

"One of the most common misconceptions about palliative care is that it indicates treatment has failed that it means giving up," says Vicki Jackson, MD, MPH, acting chief of the MGH Palliative Care Service and a co-author of the NEJM study. "In this study the addition of palliative care early in the course of illness extended the survival of patients with incurable lung cancer. These patients not only lived longer, they also experienced improved quality of life and were better able to enjoy the time they had remaining."

Palliative care teams consist of physicians, nurses, social workers and chaplains specially trained to help patients facing serious illness cope with the psychological and spiritual aspects of their disease, as well as managing symptoms such as pain, nausea and shortness of breath. Cancer patients traditionally have been enrolled in palliative
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Contact: Katie Marquedant
kmarquedant@partners.org
617-726-0337
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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