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Scoring System May Tell the Dying How Long They Have to Live
Date:8/26/2011

By Denise Mann
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Aug. 25 (HealthDay News) -- A new scoring system might be able to tell patients in the final stages of cancer how much time they have left so they can prepare for their passing, British researchers report.

Called the Prognosis in Palliative Care Study (PiPS) predictor model, the scoring system plugs 11 variables into a computer to see how many days, weeks or months a person with advanced cancer most likely has to live. These variables include symptoms, general health status and blood results.

"The PiPS score is still in development, [and] it is certainly not fail-safe," stressed study author Dr. Patrick C. Stone, of St. George's University of London. "It is, however, slightly more reliable than a doctor's or a nurse's estimate of survival."

Many people with incurable cancer want this type of information, Stone added. "At this stage of a patient's illness, information about prognosis can allow patients sufficient time to prepare for their impending death and to make decisions about where they wish to be cared for," he said. "We would expect the PiPS score to complement the doctor's own intuitive estimate of survival, rather than replace their clinical judgment."

One expert in end-of-life care agreed that more accurate estimates would be valuable. "Prognostic information, when communicated skillfully, can enable patients and families to plan and take that last trip, can discourage toxic or invasive treatments in the final weeks of life, and can encourage use of hospice services," said Dr. Porter Storey, executive vice president of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

The new system, which includes two scores (PiPS-A and PiPS-B), were at least as accurate as the predictions of doctors or nurses at determining how long 1,018 people with advanced cancer had left to live. PiPS-B includes blood work, and this particular score was better
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