Evaluating the Time to Palliative Care Referrals in Patients With Small-Cell Lung Cancer: A Single-Centre Retrospective Review

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Lung cancer is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Patients with lung cancer may experience a plethora of symptoms, which can be debilitating and affect their quality of life. Palliative care input to manage their physical and psychological well-being is a crucial component of their oncological care. The benefit of early palliative care input has been shown in patients with non-small cell lung cancer; however, data pertaining to patients with small-cell lung cancer are scarce. Nevertheless, early palliative care input is recommended by several national and international guidelines. Thus, we aimed to assess the time to palliative care referrals in patients diagnosed with small-cell lung cancer in an Irish tertiary hospital and to determine what impact this had on overall survival.


We performed a retrospective, single-center audit of all patients diagnosed with extensive stage small-cell lung cancer over a 6-year period in an Irish tertiary hospital.


Overall, 91 patients were identified. Median age at diagnosis was 66 years (range: 38-83 years). The median Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group Performance Status at diagnosis was 1 (range: 0-3); 24 (26%) patients had multiple sites of distant metastasis at diagnosis; 45 (49.5%) patients were alive at 6 months, and 15 (16.5%) patients were alive at 12 months. One hundred percent of patients received palliative care input in our center over the course of their care. In the patients alive at 6 months after diagnosis, there was no survival advantage in those receiving palliative care within 1 month (P = .002, odd ratio: 0.23, 95% confidence interval: 0.09-0.59).


Palliative care treatment is a critical aspect in the oncological treatment of all patients diagnosed with advanced cancer, and this study highlights good compliance with existing national guidelines. Further research focusing on quality-of-life issues with the use of questionnaires to assess physical and psychological symptoms should be performed to further understand the impact of palliative care in these patients.

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