Opioid addiction, if not well diagnosed and treated, can be a significant challenge for optimal pain management even in cancer patients. To date there is no definitive pharmacological standard of care for treating addiction, especially in this setting of patients. We present a clinical case series of three opioid-addicted advanced cancer patients, effectively treated with haloperidol, a well-known first-generation typical antipsychotic.
Patients with cancer have an increased risk of developing severe forms of coronavirus disease 2019, and patients with advanced cancer who are followed at home represent a particularly frail population. Although with substantial differences, the challenges that cancer care professionals have to face during a pandemic are quite similar to those posed by natural disasters. We have already managed the oncological home care service in L’Aquila (middle Italy) after the 2009 earthquake. With this letter, we want to share the procedures and tools that we have started using at the home care service of the Tuscany Tumor Association during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.
Introduction: Substance abuse is frequently under-diagnosed among cancer patients. Alcoholism is a problem afflicting about 18% of the general population. This percentage is higher in hospitalized patients. Previous studies conducted on advanced cancer patients admitted in palliative care units have highlighted this problem only for a small percentage of cases. The objective of the study was to evaluate the incidence of alcoholism in patients with advanced cancer admitted to two Italian Oncology Units for active cancer treatment, using a recognized and validated assessment tool.
Short summary: To evaluate the incidence of alcoholism in cancer patients and its impact on symptoms, the CAGE questionnaire was completed by 117 patients in active anticancer treatment. The percentage of CAGE-positive patients was higher than previously detected in palliative settings and was associated to male sex and lower ESAS score.
Methods: All eligible patients were enrolled consecutively during a 12-month recruitment period. Clinical and demographic data were collected. Each enrolled patient completed the Cut down, Annoyed, Guilty, Eye-opener (CAGE) questionnaire.
Results: Hundred and seventeen consecutive patients were surveyed in the 12-month period. The mean age was 63.3 (SD 12.0) years and 66 were males. The mean Karnofsky level was 68.3 (SD 16.0). Twelve patients were CAGE positive (10.3%). Males (P = 0.05) and patients with low Edmonton Symptom Assessment System score (P = 0.03) proved to be CAGE positive.
Conclusions: Alcoholism is widespread and under-diagnosed among patients undergoing active cancer treatment. Compared with other experience in palliative settings among European population, percentage of CAGE-positive patients was double. CAGE-positive patients were more likely to be male, with lower ESAS score. It is possible to hypothesize an effect of alcohol consumption on patients' perception of symptoms. This data has never been reported in the literature and will certainly need confirmation studies.
One of the first steps to early integrate palliative care into oncology practice is a timely and efficient evaluation of symptoms (Bakitas et al., 2015; Davis et al., 2015; Temel et al., 2010). In a recent position paper, the Italian Association of Medical Oncology tells oncologists that they "must be able to prevent, recognize, measure, and treat all cancer-related symptoms" (Zagonel et al., 2017). Major international scientific societies such as the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the European Society of Medical Oncology have often defined the key role of symptoms evaluation and management to force the integration of palliative care into oncology (Davis et al., 2015; Ferrel et al., 2017). Nevertheless, a recent survey conducted by the Italian Association of Medical Oncology shows that only 20% of oncologists regularly uses valid tools to evaluate symptoms, 45% exclusively use them in the context of clinical trials, 30% use them only occasionally, and 5% never use them (Zagonel et al., 2016).
Cet article présente les conclusions d'une étude rétrospective italienne concernant l'impact de différents facteurs (âge, genre...) sur les symptômes de cancer avancé et sur les résultats des traitements.