Comparison of symptom burden among patients referred to palliative care with hematologic malignancies versus those with solid tumors

J Palliat Med. 2008 Apr;11(3):422-7. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2007.0184.


Background: Patients with hematologic malignancies have reduced and later access to palliative care services (APCS) than do those with solid tumors. It is unclear whether these patients develop a high symptom burden at the end of life that requires special palliative care interventions. The purposes of this retrospective study were to determine whether symptoms are less severe in patients with hematologic than in those with solid malignancies on APCS and whether symptom severity is associated with early APCS.

Methods: We studied the records of consecutive patients with hematologic and solid malignancies at their first palliative care consultation (PC1). We collected information about demographics, cancer type, date of PC1, and the interval from PC1 to death (PC1-D). We reviewed the charts for the Edmonton Symptoms Assessment System (ESAS) and presence of delirium.

Results: We included 250 patients (125 with each type of malignancy). Median pain and drowsiness were 4 (3-5) and 7 (5-10) among hematologic compared to 5 (4-6, p=0.043) and 5 (3-6, p=0.0008) among patients with solid malignancies, respectively. Delirium was detected in 51 of 125 (41%) hematologic versus 20 of 125 (16%) solid (p=0.0001). Median PC1-D was 13 days for hematologic versus 46 days for solid (p=0.0001). There was no correlation between PC1-D and pain (r= -0.117, p=0.4 for hematologic and r=0.09, p=0.37 for solid), dyspnea (r= -0.02, p=0.85 for hematologic and r=0.09, p=0.42 for solid) or the Symptom Distress Score (r= -0.047, p=0.72 for hematologic and r= -0.093, p=0.32 for solid).

Conclusions: Hematologic patients had increased delirium and drowsiness and later APCS The overall symptom severity was similar in both groups of patients and did not correlate with early APCS. Future prospective studies are needed to better define APCS patterns in this group.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Female
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Palliative Care*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index