Role of Early Palliative Care Interventions in Hematological Malignancies and Bone Marrow Transplant Patients: Barriers and Potential Solutions

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Introduction:Despite advances in palliative care management of physical, psychological, and emotional symptoms along the spectrum of chronic conditions, early palliative care interventions are not used frequently and comprehensively in bone marrow transplant units.Methods:The literature review of PubMed articles in English published until December 2017.Results:Patients with hematologic malignancies and bone marrow transplant interventions are a heterogeneous group. The majority experience symptoms associated with induction or condition regimens. Curative intent of treatment is the norm. Pain, mucositis, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, psychological, spiritual, and emotional concerns may not be properly and comprehensively tackled by primary oncology and bone marrow transplant teams. Quality of life may be decreased due to the presence of these symptoms. Obstacles to early palliative care interventions include overestimation of survival, focus on curative intent with underestimation of palliative care needs, lack of a comprehensive understanding of hematologic malignancies and bone marrow transplant process on the side of palliative care providers, and logistical restrictions. Potential interventions include education of oncologists, palliative care providers, patients, integration of models of care pre- and posttreatment and bone marrow transplantation, development of guidelines, institutional commitment and leadership in creating new initiatives, clinical research activities to measure outcomes, and community-based participatory research.Conclusions:Early palliative care interventions are beneficial for patients with hematologic malignancies and bone marrow transplant processes. Better understanding of barriers to its implementation and development of creative initiatives is of paramount importance. New research endeavors should focus on providers’ attitudes toward patients and communities.

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