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Suffering of Heart Failure Similar to Cancer
Date:5/2/2008

Same kind of palliative care may be needed, researcher says

FRIDAY, May 2 (HealthDay News) -- Heart failure is as crushing a blow to someone's psychological well-being as cancer, a new study finds.

Indeed, people in the study with the most severe degrees of heart failure, the inability to supply the body with oxygen-carrying blood, had measures of severity of symptoms, depression and loss of spiritual well-being that are seen in people with advanced cancer, Dr. David Bekelman, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado at Denver Health Sciences Center, reported Friday at an American Heart Association meeting in Baltimore.

Palliative care, aimed at improving quality of life as the end of a life approaches, is often offered to people with advanced cancer, Bekelman said. "We should consider offering it to people with heart failure," he noted.

The study compared 60 people with heart failure severe enough to cause symptoms but not hospitalization with 30 people with advanced cancer of the lung or pancreas.

"We looked at physical symptoms, things like fatigue, weakness and pain," Bekelman said. "A second measure was of depression, and a third was of spiritual well-being."

Heart failure and cancer patients reported similar numbers of physical symptoms. The scores for depression on a standard test were slightly higher in heart failure than in cancer -- 3.9 versus 3.2.

"The measure of spiritual well-being we used looked at two domains, a sense of meaning and peace and a sense of faith," Bekelman said. The people with heart failure scored lower than those with cancer.

When the people with the most severe forms of heart failure were singled out, their scores on all three measures were worse than for people with advanced cancer.

Survival in heart failure severe enough to send someone to the hospital is comparable to that in advanced cancer, with death co
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