Background: A lower proportion of patients with chronic heart failure receive palliative care compared to patients with advanced cancer.
Objective: We examined the relative need for palliative care in the two conditions by comparing symptom burden, psychological well-being, and spiritual well-being in heart failure and cancer patients.
Design: This was a cross-sectional study.
Participants: Sixty outpatients with symptomatic heart failure and 30 outpatients with advanced lung or pancreatic cancer.
Measurements: Symptom burden (Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale-Short Form), depression symptoms (Geriatric Depression Scale-Short Form), and spiritual well-being (Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Spiritual Well-Being scale).
Main results: Overall, the heart failure patients and the cancer patients had similar numbers of physical symptoms (9.1 vs. 8.6, p = 0.79), depression scores (3.9 vs. 3.2, p = 0.53), and spiritual well-being (35.9 vs. 39.0, p = 0.31) after adjustment for age, gender, marital status, education, and income. Symptom burden, depression symptoms, and spiritual well-being were also similar among heart failure patients with ejection fraction < or =30, ejection fraction >30, and cancer patients. Heart failure patients with worse heart failure-related health status had a greater number of physical symptoms (13.2 vs. 8.6, p = 0.03), higher depression scores (6.7 vs. 3.2, p = 0.001), and lower spiritual well-being (29.0 vs. 38.9, p < 0.01) than patients with advanced cancer.
Conclusions: Patients with symptomatic heart failure and advanced cancer have similar needs for palliative care as assessed by symptom burden, depression, and spiritual well-being. This implies that heart failure patients, particularly those with more severe heart failure, need the option of palliative care just as cancer patients do.