Background: Informal carers are essential in enabling discharge home from hospital at end of life and supporting palliative patients at home, but are often ill-prepared for the role. Carers’ support needs are rarely considered at discharge. If carers are less able to cope with home care, patient care may suffer and readmission may become more likely.
Aim: To investigate the implementation of an evidence-based Carer Support Needs Assessment Tool (CSNAT) intervention to support carers during hospital discharge at end of life.
Design: Longitudinal qualitative study with thematic analysis.
Setting/participants: One National Health Service Trust in England: 12 hospital practitioners, one hospital administrator and four community practitioners. We provided training in CSNAT intervention use and implementation. Practitioners delivered the intervention for 6 months. Data collection was conducted in three phases: (1) pre-implementation interviews exploring understandings, anticipated benefits and challenges of the intervention; (2) observations of team meetings and review of intervention procedures and (3) follow-up interviews exploring experiences of working with the intervention.
Results: Despite efforts from practitioners, implementation was challenging. Three main themes captured facilitators and barriers to implementation: (1) structure and focus within carer support; (2) the ‘right’ people to implement the intervention and (3) practical implementation challenges.
Conclusions: Structure and focus may facilitate implementation, but the dominance of outcomes measurement and performance metrics in health systems may powerfully frame perceptions of the intervention and implementation decisions. There is uncertainty over who is best-placed or responsible for supporting carers around hospital discharge, and challenges in connecting with carers prior to discharge.
Objective: We studied if preferences about end-of-life care of people having an advance directive (AD) stay stable over time and if (in) stability is associated with health status.
Methods: A longitudinal cohort study with a population owning different types of ADs (n = 4638). Respondents repeatedly answered questionnaires between 2005-2010. Using hypothetical scenarios about advanced cancer and dementia we assessed preferences for continuing or forgoing resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, artificial nutrition and antibiotics. Using generalized estimated equations we analysed whether life-events and quality of life influenced changes in preferences.
Results: The proportion of respondents with stable preferences ranged from 67 to 98 %. Preferences were most stable concerning resuscitation and least stable concerning mechanical ventilation. In only a few instances we found life-events or a change in quality of life could both increase or decrease odds to change preferences.
Conclusion: Preferences concerning continuing or forgoing treatment at the end of life are stable for a majority of people with ADs, which supports their validity.
Objectives: Little is known about the experience of family caregivers of patients who require prolonged mechanical ventilation (PMV). We examined the perspectives of caregivers of patients who died after PMV to explore the role of palliative care and the quality of dying and death (QODD) in patients and understand the psychological symptoms of these caregivers.
Methods: A longitudinal study was performed in five hospitals in Taipei, Taiwan. Routine palliative care family conferences and optional consultation with a palliative care specialist were provided, and family caregivers were asked to complete surveys.
Results: In total, 136 family caregivers of 136 patients receiving PMV were recruited and underwent face-to-face baseline interviews in 2016–2017. By 2018, 61 (45%) of 136 patients had died. We successfully interviewed 30 caregivers of patients’ death to collect information on the QODD of patients and administer the Impact of Event Scale (IES), Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) and Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) scale to caregivers. We observed that more frequent palliative care family conferences were associated with poorer QODD in patients (coefficients: -44.04% and 95% CIs -75.65 to -12.44), and more psychological symptoms among caregivers (coefficient: 9.77% and 95% CI 1.63 to 17.90 on CES-D and coefficient: 7.67% and 95% CI 0.78 to 14.55 on HADS). A higher caregiver burden at baseline correlated with lower psychological symptoms (coefficient: -0.35% and 95% CI -0.58 to -0.11 on IES and coefficient: -0.22% and 95% CI -0.40 to -0.05 on CES-D) among caregivers following the patients’ death. Caregivers’ who accepted the concept of palliative care had fewer psychological symptoms after patients’ death (coefficient: -3.29% and 95% CI -6.32 to -0.25 on IES and coefficient: -3.22% and 95% CI -5.24 to -1.20 on CES-D).
Conclusions: Palliative care conferences were more common among family members with increased distress. Higher caregiver burden and caregiver acceptance of palliative care at baseline both predicted lower levels of caregiver distress after death.
Context: Clinicians often worry that patients' recognition of the terminal nature of their illness may impair psychological well-being.
Objectives: To determine if such recognition was associated with decrements to psychological well-being that persisted over time.
Methods: About 87 patients with advanced cancer, with an oncologist-expected life expectancy of less than six months, were assessed before and after an oncology visit to discuss cancer restaging scan results and again at follow-up (median time between assessments, approximately six weeks). Prognostic understanding (PU) was assessed at previsit and postvisit, and a change score was computed. Psychological well-being was assessed at pre, post, and follow-up, and two change scores were computed (post minus pre; follow-up minus post).
Results: Changes toward more accurate PU was associated with a corresponding initial decline in psychological well-being (r = -0.33; P < 0.01) but thereafter was associated with subsequent improvements (r = 0.40; P < 0.001). This pattern remained controlling for potential confounds. Patients showed different patterns of psychological well-being change (F = 3.07, P = 0.05; F = 6.54, P < 0.01): among patients with improved PU accuracy, well-being initially decreased but subsequently recovered; by contrast, among patients with stable PU accuracy, well-being remained relatively unchanged, and among patients with decrements in PU accuracy, well-being initially improved but subsequently declined.
Conclusion: Improved PU may be associated with initial decrements in psychological well-being, followed by patients rebounding to baseline levels. Concerns about lasting psychological harm may not need to be a deterrent to having prognostic discussions with patients.
Background: Understanding the factors that affect the congruence between preferred and actual place of death may help providers offer clients customized end-of-life care settings. Little is known about this congruence for cancer patients in receipt of home-based palliative care.
Objectives: This study aims to determine the congruence between preferred and actual place of death among cancer patients in home-based palliative care programs.
Design: A longitudinal prospective cohort study was conducted. Congruence between preferred and actual place of death was measured. Both univariate and multivariate analyses were used to assess the determinants of achieving a preferred place of death. From July 2010 to August 2012, a total of 290 caregivers were interviewed biweekly over the course of their palliative care trajectory from entry to the program and death.
Results: The overall congruence between preferred and actual place of death was 71.72%. Home was the most preferred place of death. The intensity of home-based nursing visits and hours of care from personal support workers (PSWs) increased the likelihood of achieving death in a preferred setting.
Conclusions: The provision of care by home-based nurse visits and PSWs contributed to achieving a greater congruence between preferred and actual place of death. This finding highlights the importance of formal care providers in signaling and executing the preferences of clients in receipt of home-based palliative care.
Purpose: The responsibility of taking care of terminal patients is accepted as a role of family members in Taiwan. Only a few studies have focused on the effect of palliative care consultation service (PCCS) on caregiver burden between terminal cancer family caregivers (CFCs) and non-cancer family caregivers (NCFCs). Therefore, the purpose of this study is to address the effect of PCCS on caregiver burden between CFC and NCFC over time.
Methods: A prospective longitudinal study was conducted in a medical center in northern Taiwan from July to November 2017. The participants were both terminally ill cancer and non-cancer patients who were prepared to receive PCCS, as well as their family caregivers. Characteristics including family caregivers and terminal patients and Family Caregiver Burden Scale (FCBS) were recorded pre-, 7, and 14 days following PCCS. A generalized estimating equation model was used to analyze the change in the level of family caregiver burden (FCB) between CFC and NCFC.
Results: The study revealed that there were no statistically significant differences in FCB between CFC and NCFC 7 days and 14 days after PCCS (p > 0.05). However, FCB significantly decreased in both CFC and NCFC from pre-PCCS to 14 days after PCCS (ß = - 12.67, p = 0.013). PPI of patients was the key predictor of FCB over time following PCCS (ß = 1.14, p = 0.013).
Conclusions: This study showed that PCCS can improve FCB in not only CFC but also NCFC. We suggest that PCCS should be used more widely in supporting family caregivers of terminally ill patients to reduce caregiver burden.
Survival estimates are very important to patients with terminal cancer. The C-reactive protein (CRP)/albumin ratio is associated with cancer outcomes. However, few studies have investigated the dose-response association in terminal cancer patients. Therefore, we aimed to evaluate the association between the CRP/albumin ratio and mortality in terminal cancer patients using a longitudinal analysis. We retrospectively investigated the electronic medical records of 435 inpatients with terminal cancer admitted to the palliative care unit of Yeouido St. Mary's Hospital between October 8, 2015, and January 17, 2018. In total, 382 patients with terminal cancer were enrolled in the study. The serum CRP/albumin ratio measured at admission had a linear dose-response relationship with the risk of death among the terminal cancer patients (P for linearity = .011). The multivariate analyses showed that the CRP/albumin ratio was an independent prognostic factor (Model 1, CRP/albumin ratio >48.53 × 10-4: HR = 2.68, 95% CI = 1.82–3.93; Model 2, tertile 2: HR = 1.91, 95% CI = 1.31–2.82 and tertile 3: HR = 3.66, 95% CI = 2.24–5.97). The relationship between a high CRP/albumin ratio and poor survival was a flat L-shape for survival time with an inflection point at approximately 15 days, while the relationship was not significant in terminal cancer patients who survived beyond 30 days. This study demonstrated that high CRP/albumin ratios are significantly and independently associated with the short-term survival prognosis of terminal cancer patients within 30 days.
The aim of the study is to evaluate the intensity of symptoms, and any treatment and therapeutic procedures received by advanced chronic patients in nursing homes. A multi-centre prospective study was conducted in six nursing homes for five months. A nurse trainer selected palliative care patients from whom the sample was randomly selected for inclusion. The Edmonton Symptoms Assessment Scale, therapeutic procedures, and treatment were evaluated. Parametric and non-parametric tests were used to evaluate month-to-month differences and differences between those who died and those who did not. A total of 107 residents were evaluated. At the end of the follow-up, 39 had (34.6%) died. All symptoms (p < 0.050) increased in intensity in the last week of life. Symptoms were more intense in those who had died at follow-up (p < 0.05). The use of aerosol sprays (p = 0.008), oxygen therapy (p < 0.001), opioids (p < 0.001), antibiotics (p = 0.004), and bronchodilators (p = 0.003) increased in the last week of life. Peripheral venous catheters (p = 0.022), corticoids (p = 0.007), antiemetics (p < 0.001), and antidepressants (p < 0.05) were used more in the patients who died. In conclusion, the use of therapeutic procedures (such as urinary catheters, peripheral venous catheter placement, and enteral feeding) and drugs (such as antibiotics, anxiolytics, and new antidepressant prescriptions) should be carefully considered in this clinical setting.
BACKGROUND: End-of-life experience is a subject of significant policy interest. National longitudinal studies offer valuable opportunities to examine individual-level experiences. Ireland is an international leader in palliative and end-of-life care rankings. We aimed to describe the prevalence of modifiable problems (pain, falls, depression) in Ireland, and to evaluate associations with place of death, healthcare utilisation, and formal and informal costs in the last year of life.
METHODS: The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) is a nationally representative sample of over-50-year-olds, recruited in Wave 1 (2009-2010) and participating in biannual assessment. In the event of a participant's death, TILDA approaches a close relative or friend to complete a voluntary interview on end-of-life experience. We evaluated associations using multinomial logistic regression for place of death, ordinary least squares for utilisation, and generalised linear models for costs. We identified 14 independent variables for regressions from a rich set of potential predictors. Of 516 confirmed deaths between Waves 1 and 3, the analytic sample contained 375 (73%) decedents for whom proxies completed an interview.
RESULTS: There was high prevalence of modifiable problems pain (50%), depression (45%) and falls (41%). Those with a cancer diagnosis were more likely to die at home (relative risk ratio: 2.5; 95% CI: 1.3-4.8) or in an inpatient hospice (10.2; 2.7-39.2) than those without. Place of death and patterns of health care use were determined not only by clinical need, but other factors including age and household structure. Unpaid care accounted for 37% of all care received but access to this care, as well as place of death, may be adversely affected by living alone or in a rural area. Deficits in unpaid care are not balanced by higher formal care use.
CONCLUSIONS: Despite Ireland's well-established palliative care services, clinical need is not the sole determinant of end-of-life experience. Cancer diagnosis and access to family supports were additional key determinants. Future policy reforms should revisit persistent inequities by diagnosis, which may be mitigated through comprehensive geriatric assessment in hospitals. Further consideration of policies to support unpaid carers is also warranted.
Several longitudinal studies show that over time the American public has become more approving of euthanasia and suicide for terminally ill persons. Yet, these previous findings are limited because they derive from biased estimates of disaggregated hierarchical data. Using insights from life course sociological theory and cross-classified logistic regression models, I better account for this liberalization process by disentangling the age, period, and cohort effects that contribute to longitudinal changes in these attitudes. The results of the analysis point toward a continued liberalization of both attitudes over time, although the magnitude of change was greater for suicide compared with euthanasia. More fluctuation in the probability of supporting both measures was exhibited for the age and period effects over the cohort effects. In addition, age-based differences in supporting both measures were found between men and women and various religious affiliations.
Objectives: To gain preliminary data regarding the prevalence of proximal deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in those with non-malignant conditions admitted to specialist palliative care units (SPCUs).
Methods: Data were collected as part of a prospective longitudinal observational study in five SPCUs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Registration: ISRCTN97567719) to estimate the prevalence of proximal femoral vein DVT in people admitted to SPCUs. The primary outcome for this exploratory substudy was the prevalence of DVT in patients with non-malignant palliative conditions. Consecutive consenting adults underwent bilateral femoral vein ultrasonography within 48 hours of admission. Data were collected on symptoms associated with venous thromboembolism. Patients were ineligible if the estimated prognosis was <5 days. Cross-sectional descriptive analysis was conducted on baseline data and prevalence estimates presented with 95% CIs.
Results: 1390 patients were screened, 28 patients had non-malignant disease and all were recruited. The mean age 68·8 (SD 12·0), range 43–86 years; men 61%; survival mean 86 (SD 108.5) range 1–345 days. No patient had a history of venous thromboembolism. Four (14%) were receiving thromboprophylaxis. Of 22 evaluable scans, 8 (36%, 95% CI: 17% to 59%) showed femoral vein DVT. The level of reported relevant symptoms (leg oedema, leg pain, chest pain and breathlessness) was high irrespective of the presence of DVT.
Conclusions: Our exploratory data indicate one in three people admitted to an SPCU with non-malignant disease had a femoral vein DVT. Although definitive conclusions cannot be drawn, these data justify a larger prospective survey.
BACKGROUND: Palliative care has been developed in recent years in many sub-Saharan countries in Africa due to activities of African Association for Palliative Care. Palliative care units have been established also in most hospitals in Tanzania. Yet very little is known about their functions. Long-term studies about the sustainability of palliative care have not been carried out.
METHODS: The attitudes of 101 members of hospital staff and persons in charge of palliative care services of Ilembula District Designated Hospital (IDDH), Tanzania, were assessed using a modified and prevalidated questionnaire annually in 2014 to 2017. The inquiries were executed on randomly allocated days. Also, the patient and economy registries were analyzed. Additional qualitative data were obtained in personal interviews and during observational visits twice a year at the IDDH.
RESULTS: Ilembula District Designated Hospital has a true multiprofessional palliative care team, which provides services in the hospital, in the villages, and at homes. The activities are based on careful 5-year planning and budgeting. Up to 17 villages have been included in the services. Ninety-five percent of the patients were HIV infected. Short-acting morphine oral solution was the only available strong opioid. The hospital staff evaluated palliative care as good or excellent; 50% of the staff would need more support in the end-of-life care.
CONCLUSIONS: A sustainable palliative care service can be built in a Tanzanian rural hospital if an advanced planning and budgeting are made. In Tanzania, the biggest group of palliative care patients are still HIV-infected individuals. There is a lack of opioids in the country.
CONTEXT: Patients with advanced breast cancer have low rates of survival that can be associated with symptom burden.
OBJECTIVES: This study seeks to characterize the effect of longitudinally-collected symptom scores on predicting time to death for advanced breast cancer patients.
METHODS: A cohort of 993 Stage IV breast cancer patients was constructed using linked population-level health administrative databases that captured longitudinally-collected symptom data using the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System. Data was captured on individual symptom scores (20,371 assessments) for pain, tiredness, drowsiness, nausea, appetite, dyspnea, depression, anxiety and wellbeing, as well as three summative scores of total symptom distress score (TSDS), physical symptom score, and psychological symptom score. A joint modelling approach was undertaken to simultaneously model repeated measures longitudinal data and time-to-event data.
RESULTS: Of patients who died in the study, 56.11% survived for a mean time of less than three years and had lower mean symptom scores for all symptoms except shortness of breath, in comparison to patients who lived for greater than three years. Symptom burden was predictive of patient time to death for all symptoms, with risk of death increasing with worsening symptom scores. For TSDS, age at diagnosis (0.009, p<0.05), chemotherapy (-0.63, p<0.001) and palliative care (3.15, p<0.001) were significant predictors of patient time to death.
CONCLUSIONS: Patients with advanced breast cancer experience chronic, ongoing low symptom burden which predicts patient time to death. Future research should examine the mechanisms by which patient characteristics, treatment, supportive and palliative care can have an impact on patient survival.
Background: The literature describing the incidence of sleep difficulty in CNS cancers is very limited, with exploration of a sleep difficulty symptom trajectory particularly sparse in people with advanced disease. We aimed to establish the prevalence and longitudinal trajectory of sleep difficulty in populations with CNS cancers receiving palliative care nationally, and to identify clinically modifiable predictors of sleep difficulty.
Methods: A consecutive cohort of 2406 patients with CNS cancers receiving palliative care from sites participating in the Australian national Palliative Care Outcomes Collaboration were evaluated longitudinally on patient-reported sleep difficulty from point-of-care data collection, comorbid symptoms, and clinician-rated problems. Multilevel models were used to analyze patient-reported sleep difficulty.
Results: Reporting of mild to severe sleep difficulties ranged from 10% to 43%. Sleep scores fluctuated greatly over the course of palliative care. While improvement in patients' clinical status was associated with less sleep difficulty, the relationship was not clear when patients deteriorated. Worsening of sleep difficulty was associated with higher psychological distress (P < .0001), greater breathing problems (P < .05) and pain (P < .05), and higher functional status (P < .001) at the beginning of care.
Conclusions: Sleep difficulty is prevalent but fluctuates widely in patients with CNS cancers receiving palliative care. A better-tailored sleep symptom assessment may be needed for this patient population. Early interventions targeting psychological distress, breathing symptoms, and pain for more functional patients should be explored to see whether it reduces sleep difficulties late in life.
Terminally ill cancer patients with limited life expectancies (LLEs) are often prescribed multiple medications to control acute symptoms associated with cancer such as dyspnoea, pain, nausea and vomiting, and anxiety. Medications are also commonly prescribed to prevent or treat other common, long-term comorbid conditions such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus and hyperlipidaemia. Early identification of unnecessary preventive medications at the end of life can improve quality of life. Limited research has investigated whether preventive medications are withdrawn in patients with terminal cancer. The aim of this project was to evaluate the prevalence of preventive medication use in terminally ill cancer patients with LLE of 6 months or less.
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BACKGROUND: Various factors affect the mortality of older adult residents of long-term care facilities. To provide adequate nursing care for older adults, it is necessary to understand the factors that affect their risk of mortality.
PURPOSE: This study was designed to (a) evaluate the 24-month survival rate and (b) identify the underlying cause of death in various dimensions, including cognitive, psychological, and physical function; nutritional status; and chronic disease.
METHODS: A longitudinal study was carried out between 2011 and 2013 at seven long-term care facilities. The participants comprised 276 residents who were all older than 65 years old. Baseline measurements included cognitive function (Mini-Mental State Examination for Dementia Screening), psychological function (Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia), physical function (Barthel Index), nutritional status (Mini Nutritional Assessment, mid-arm circumference, and calf circumference), and chronic disease status (hypertension, diabetes mellitus, chronic respiratory disease, heart disease, and urinary incontinence). Data analysis included univariate and multivariate logistic regression to identify the main factors affecting mortality.
RESULTS: In 2011 (baseline), the mean age of the participants was 80.46 years (SD = 7.08) and most were female (73.6%). At the 24-month follow-up, 94 (34.1%) of the participants had died. The major factors affecting mortality were as follows: cognitive dysfunction (OR = 3.12, 95% CI [1.41, 6.90]), mid-arm circumference (< 22.5 cm; OR = 2.32, 95% CI [1.35, 3.96]), and urinary incontinence (OR = 2.04, 95% CI [1.16, 3.61]).
CONCLUSIONS: According to the findings, special attention is needed at the end of life to improve the quality of life of older adults with cognitive dysfunction, malnutrition (low mid-arm circumference), and urinary incontinence who reside in long-term care facilities.
Background: Determining the effect of caregiving and bereavement remains a challenge. To date, no study has employed a comparison group to investigate caregivers’ grief, quality of life and general health in relation to non-caregivers.
Aim: We aimed to determine how caregivers’ grief, quality of life and general health changed following death compared to non-caregivers and whether pre-death grief predicted these outcomes.
Design: A prospective, longitudinal study of family caregivers and a comparison group matched for age, gender and postcode was conducted. All participants completed questionnaires at four points – once pre-death and three times post-death (3–4 months, 6–7 months and 9–10 months).
Setting/participants: Participants (N = 70) were family caregivers of persons receiving palliative care, mostly for cancer, recruited from three palliative care providers in Western Australia and matched comparisons recruited from advertisements.
Results: There were significant differences between the caregivers’ and comparisons’ grief, general health and quality of life at pre-death, 3–4 months and 6–7 months post-death, but not at 9–10 months post-death. The rate of progression in these constructs following death was independent from the intensity of pre-death grief. However, caregiver prolonged grief score significantly predicted prolonged grief score at 6–7 and 9–10 months post-death.
Conclusion: It took 9–10 months for the caregivers’ grief, general health and quality of life to correspond to the comparison group. These findings present an opportunity for palliative care research and practice to consider how best to support the majority of caregivers without grief complications so that their pre- and post-death support needs are realised.
Background: Few studies have estimated planned home deaths compared to actual place of death in a general population or the longitudinal course of home nursing services and associations with place of death. We aimed to investigate trajectories of nursing services, potentially planned home deaths regardless of place of death; and associations of place of death with potentially planned home deaths and nursing service trajectories, by analyzing data from the last 90 days of life.
Methods: A retrospective longitudinal study with data from the Norwegian Cause of Death Registry and National registry for statistics on municipal healthcare services included all community-dwelling people who died in Norway 2012–2013 (n = 53,396). We used a group-based trajectory model to identify joint trajectories of home nursing (hours per week) and probability of a skilled nursing facility (SNF) stay, each of the 13 weeks leading up to death. An algorithm estimated potentially planned home deaths. We used a multinomial logistic regression model to estimate associations of place of death with potentially planned home deaths, trajectories of home nursing and short-term SNF.
Results: We identified four home nursing service trajectories: no (46.5%), accelerating (7.6%), decreasing (22.1%), and high (23.5%) home nursing; and four trajectories of the probability of a SNF stay: low (69.0%), intermediate (6.7%), escalating (15.9%), and increasing (8.4%) SNF. An estimated 24.0% of all deaths were potentially planned home deaths, of which a third occurred at home. Only high home nursing was associated with increased likelihood of a home death (adjusted relative risk ratio (aRRR) 1.29; CI 1.21–1.38). Following any trajectory with elevated probability of a SNF stay reduced the likelihood of a home death.
Conclusions: We estimated few potentially planned home deaths. Trajectories of home nursing hours and probability of SNF stays indicated possible effective palliative home nursing for some, but also missed opportunities of staying at home longer at the end-of-life. Continuity of care seems to be an important factor in palliative home care and home death.
Death metaphors are a meaningful way to understand personal perceptions of death, an important construct affecting how people live. This study collected death metaphor data among 100 university students in Hong Kong in 2016 and compared the findings with another study reported in 2004. Interpersonally oriented death metaphors were still popular among students a decade later. There was a general decrease in positive perception of death and an increase in negative perception of death from 2004 to 2016. Death metaphors are useful tools in death education programs, especially in cultures where death is a taboo topic.
OBJECTIVE: Soft tissue sarcoma (STS) is a rare cancer type that when locally advanced or metastatic, is predominantly treated with palliative chemotherapy with the aim of improving both quantity and quality of life. Given modest survival data after commencing first line chemotherapy, this study examines (i) what constitutes health related quality of life (HRQoL), (ii) whether the most commonly used HRQoL assessment tool measures this and (iii) to what extent HRQoL, and its components, change during and after treatment.
DESIGN: Mixed-methods longitudinal study of 66 sarcoma patients living with STS (42 commencing chemotherapy, 24 under surveillance after completing chemotherapy) involving serial EORTC QLQ-C30 questionnaires and nested-qualitative semi-structured interviews with a sub-sample of participants. EORTC QLQ-C30 score change from baseline to primary evaluation point was examined using a paired t-test. Interviews were analysed using the framework approach before both datasets were integrated.
RESULTS: Five main factors, including control of pain, were identified by study participants as important components of HRQoL; these are examined within the EORTC QLQ-C30. However, others e.g. independence loss and common causes of anxiety, are not. Whilst social and psychological domains are addressed by the EORTC QLQ-C30, the quantitative change over time did reflect qualitative descriptions of decline. The mean overall EORTC QLQ-C30 HRQoL score deteriorated from baseline (60.4) to the primary evaluation point (50.2) [change of -10.2, t-test: -2.70, p = 0.01] for those receiving chemotherapy; this was in concordance with patients' qualitative accounts. Baseline overall HRQoL scores were higher in the surveillance group suggesting a correlation with chemotherapy response and longer-term improvement in HRQoL. The evidence from both HRQoL scores and qualitative accounts indicated that the presence and control of physical symptoms were particularly important in maintaining HRQoL. Whilst fatigue deteriorated on chemotherapy (baseline 41.7 to 52.8; change of +11.1, t-test +2.51, p<0.05), pain (baseline 41.5 to 32.1; change -9.4, t-test -2.06 p<0.05) and sleep disturbance (43.1 to 28.5; change -14.6, t-test -3.05, p<0.05) both improved.
CONCLUSION: A key finding was that the EORTC QLQ-C30 assesses some but not all of the patient-reported components of HRQoL in sarcoma patients highlighting the need for either STS specific modules within the EORTC QLQ-C30 or a completely new STS specific HRQoL tool. First line palliative chemotherapy improves specific symptoms known to be prevalent and to influence HRQoL in this patient group which in some patients may translate to sustained improvement in HRQoL: further exploration and validation of these findings in larger prospective studies are warranted.