Is early integration of palliative care feasible and acceptable for advanced respiratory and gastrointestinal cancer patients? A phase 2 mixed-methods study

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Background:There is evidence that early integration of palliative care improves quality of life, lowers spending and helps clarify preferences and goals for advanced cancer patients. Little is known about the feasibility and acceptability of early integration.Aim:Assessing feasibility of early integration of palliative care, and exploring concerns perceived and problems encountered by patients, relatives and oncologists.Design:A phase 2 mixed-methods study (ClinicalTrials.Gov:NCT02078700).Methods:Oncologists of two outpatient clinics offered a specialised palliative care intervention integrated with standard oncological care to all consecutive newly diagnosed metastatic respiratory/gastrointestinal cancer patients. We interviewed samples of patients, relatives and oncologists to explore strengths and weaknesses of the intervention.Results:The intervention was proposed to 44/54 eligible patients (81.5%), 40 (90.1%) accepted, 38 (95.0%) attended the first palliative care visit. The intervention was completed for 32 patients (80.0%). It did not start for three (7.5%) and was interrupted for three patients who refused (7.5%). The Palliative Care Unit performed 274 visits in 38 patients (median per patient 4.5), and 24 family meetings with relatives of 16 patients. All patients and most relatives referred to the usefulness of the intervention, specifically for symptoms management, information and support to strategies for coping. Oncologists highlighted their difficulties in informing patients on palliative intervention, sharing information and coordinating patient’s care with the palliative care team.Conclusion:Early integration of palliative care in oncological setting seems feasible and well accepted by patients, relatives and, to a lesser extent, oncologists. Some difficulties emerged concerning patient information and inter-professional communication.

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