BACKGROUND: This study examined the changes in outpatient palliative care services at US cancer centers over the past decade.
METHODS: Between April and August 2018, all National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers and a random sample of 1252 non-NCI-designated cancer centers were surveyed. Two surveys used previously in a 2009 national study were sent to each institution: a 22-question cancer center executive survey regarding palliative care infrastructure and attitudes toward palliative care and an 82-question palliative care program leader survey regarding detailed palliative care structures and processes. Survey findings from 2018 were compared with 2009 data from 101 cancer center executives and 96 palliative care program leaders.
RESULTS: The overall response rate was 69% (140 of 203) for the cancer center executive survey and 75% (123 of 164) for the palliative care program leader survey. Among NCI-designated cancer centers, a significant increase in outpatient palliative care clinics was observed between 2009 and 2018 (59% vs 95%; odds ratio, 12.3; 95% confidence interval, 3.2-48.2; P < .001) with no significant changes in inpatient consultation teams (92% vs 90%; P = .71), palliative care units (PCUs; 26% vs 40%; P = .17), or institution-operated hospices (31% vs 18%; P = .14). Among non-NCI-designated cancer centers, there was no significant increase in outpatient palliative care clinics (22% vs 40%; P = .07), inpatient consultation teams (56% vs 68%; P = .27), PCUs (20% vs 18%; P = .76), or institution-operated hospices (42% vs 23%; P = .05). The median interval from outpatient palliative care referral to death increased significantly, particularly for NCI-designated cancer centers (90 vs 180 days; P = 0.01).
CONCLUSIONS: Despite significant growth in outpatient palliative care clinics, there remain opportunities for improvement in the structures and processes of palliative care programs.
Background: There is a growing preference for the use of marijuana for medical purposes, despite limited evidence regarding its benefits and potential safety risks. Legalization status may play a role in the attitudes and preferences toward medical marijuana (MM).
Objectives: The attitudes and beliefs of cancer patients in a legalized (Arizona) versus nonlegalized state (Texas) regarding medical and recreational legalization and medical usefulness of marijuana were compared.
Settings/Subjects: Two hundred adult cancer patients were enrolled from outpatient Palliative Care centers at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert, AZ (n = 100) and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX (n = 100).
Design and Measurements: Adult cancer patients seen by the Palliative Care teams in the outpatient centers were evaluated. Various physical and psychosocial assessments were conducted, including a survey of attitudes and beliefs toward marijuana.
Results: The majority of individuals support legalization of marijuana for medical use (Arizona 92% [85–97%] vs. Texas 90% [82–95%]; p = 0.81) and belief in its medical usefulness (Arizona 97% [92–99%] vs. Texas 93% [86–97%]; p = 0.33) in both states. Overall, 181 (91%) patients supported legalization for medical purposes whereas 80 (40%) supported it for recreational purposes (p < 0.0001). Patients preferred marijuana over current standard treatments for anxiety (60% [51–68%]; p = 0.003). Patients found to favor legalizing MM were younger (p = 0.027), had worse fatigue (p = 0.015), appetite (p = 0.004), anxiety (p = 0.017), and were Cut Down, Annoyed, Guilty, and Eye Opener-Adapted to Include Drugs (CAGE-AID) positive for alcohol/drugs (p < 0.0001).
Conclusion: Cancer patients from both legalized and nonlegalized states supported legalization of marijuana for medical purposes and believed in its medical use. The support for legalization for medical use was significantly higher than for recreational use in both states.
BACKGROUND: Systematic symptom assessment is not a standard of care in children with cancer. Many well-known symptom assessment tools are lengthy or difficult to integrate into a daily pediatric palliative care practice. We created a series of brief and simple questions to be systematically given to children and their caregivers.
OBJECTIVE: The primary objective was to determine the percentage of eligible children and caregivers exposed to the questions that were able to complete the assessment. Secondary objectives included documenting the symptom burden at the time of consultation, evaluating the level of agreement in symptom reporting between children and caregivers, as well as between children/caregivers and the referring medical team.
DESIGN: A series of systematic questions were presented to all caregivers (if present) and children who were seven years of age or older at the time of initial consultation with pediatric palliative care.
RESULTS: One hundred twenty-two consecutive children/caregiver dyads were given the survey. One hundred seven of 108 (99%) eligible caregivers and 83 of 97 (86%) eligible children completed the survey. Lack of appetite (child—72/83, 87%; caregiver—89/107, 83%) and pain (child—71/83, 86%; caregiver—86/107, 80%) were the most commonly reported symptoms. Caregivers reported irritability (p = 0.005) and nervousness (p < 0.001) more frequently than children. Referring medical teams significantly underdiagnosed psychological and other less clinically evident symptoms such as lack of appetite, fatigue, and sleep disturbance (p < 0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: Our series of questions is easy to complete by children and caregivers. Systematic symptom assessment of children with cancer referred to palliative care should become a true standard of care.
CONTEXT: Optimal benefits from Palliative Cancer Care (PC) are achieved when first consults (PC1) occur early, in the outpatient setting. Late PC1, like those in the intensive care unit (ICU), limit these benefits.
OBJECTIVES: To determine the proportion of PC1 over time in the outpatient, ICU, and inpatient non-ICU settings. We also examined patients' baseline characteristics and the timing of PC access (from PC1 to death) by the setting of PC1.
METHODS: We retrospectively evaluated consecutive cancer patients' records at our cancer center to ascertain the annual number of PC1 and its distribution across settings (2011 to 2017). ICU PC1 (n=309) and a random sample of an equal number of outpatient and inpatient non-ICU PC1 were reviewed to retrieve patients' characteristics and death date.
RESULTS: PC1 total annual number increased by 58% from 2011 (n= 2286) to 2017 (n= 3615). We found a significant decrease in the proportion of ICU PC1 (from 2.3% in 2011 to 1% in 2017, p<0.001). There were no significant changes in the proportion of PC1 at outpatient versus inpatient settings (p= 0.2). Hematologic cancer patients were more likely to have an ICU PC1 (p<.001). Median survival (months) was 7.7 (6.3 - 9.7), 3.4, (2.4 - 4.5), and 0.1 (0.1, 0.1), for outpatient, inpatient, and ICU respectively (p<.01).
CONCLUSIONS: PC1 total annual number has increased and the proportion of PC1 at ICU, a very late clinical setting, is decreasing. Further efforts are needed to integrate PC in hematologic cancer care.
BACKGROUND: Methadone is an attractive medication for treating children with advanced cancer with pain as it is the only long-acting opioid available as a liquid. However, it is not frequently used due to concerns about potential toxicities and side effects.
OBJECTIVE: Evaluate the efficacy and safety of methadone as the first long-acting opioid in children with advanced cancer.
DESIGN: Retrospective chart review of 52 consecutive patients referred to Pediatric Supportive Care for pain management started on methadone as their first long-acting opioid. Data collected at baseline, follow-up visits #1 (F1) and #2 (F2) included child and parent-reported outcomes for various physical and psychological symptoms, opioid side effects and other clinical data. Symptoms were rated on a 0 (not at all) to 4 (a lot) scale.
RESULTS: Pain (mean ± standard deviation [SD]) scored by the child was 3.6 (±0.6)/4 at baseline and 1.8 (±1.1)/4 at F1 (p < 0.0001). Compared to baseline, pain scored by the child at F2 was 1.2 (±1.3)/4 (p < 0.0001). Pain scored by the parent was 3.5 (±0.7)/4 at baseline and 1.4 (±1.3)/4 at F1 (p < 0.0001). Compared to baseline, pain scored by the parent at F2 was 1.0 (±1.2)/4 (p < 0.0001). Thirty-three (70%) patients at F1 and 23 (79%) patients at F2 did not need a change in dose of methadone. No cardiac arrhythmias or opioid neurotoxicity was observed.
CONCLUSIONS: Initiation of methadone was effective and safe as the first long-acting opioid in children with pain.