Improving palliative and supportive care in cancer patients

James Khatcheressian, J. Brian Cassel, Laurie Lyckholm, Patrick Coyne, Alice Hagenmueller, Thomas J. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Twenty years of research in controlling symptoms such as pain and nausea have shown persistent suboptimal performance by the US oncology system. The data suggest that some of the tools of palliative care programs can improve physical symptoms of seriously ill patients at a cost society can afford. To fix these problems will require recognition of the symptoms or concerns, a system such as an algorithm or care plan for addressing each, measurement of the change, and accountabilityfor the change. Symptom assessment scales such as the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale or Rotterdam Symptom Check List work to make symptoms manifest. Listing symptoms on a problem list is a necessary step in addressing them. Physical symptoms such as pain can be improved by use of computer prompts, algorithms, dedicated staff time, team management, or combinations of these strategies. Less concrete problems such as medically appropriate goal-setting, integrating palliative care into anticancer care sooner, and informing patients about the benefits and risks of chemotherapy near the end of life require more complex solutions. We review what is known about symptom control in oncology, how and why some programs do better, and make suggestions for practice. Finally, we suggest a practical plan for using symptom assessment scales, listing the problems, and managing them according to algorithms or other predetermined plans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1365-1376
Number of pages12
Issue number10
StatePublished - Sep 1 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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