Scientific advances in novel cancer therapeutics have led to remarkable changes in oncology practice and longer lives for patients diagnosed with incurable malignancies. However, the myriad options for treatment have established a culture of cancer care that has not been matched with a similar availability of efficacious supportive care interventions aimed at relieving debilitating symptoms due to progressive disease and treatment side effects. Accumulating data show that the introduction of palliative care services at the time of diagnosis of advanced cancer leads to meaningful improvement in the experiences of patients and family caregivers by emphasizing symptom management, quality of life, and treatment planning. In this review article, the rationale and evidence base for this model of early palliative care services integrated into standard oncology care are presented. In addition, the implications and limitations of the existing data to 1) elucidate the mechanisms by which early palliative care benefits patients and families; 2) guide the dissemination and application of this model in outpatient settings; and 3) inform health care policy regarding the delivery of high-quality, cost-effective, and comprehensive cancer care are discussed.
Keywords: end of life; metastatic cancer; palliative care; quality of life.
Copyright © 2013 American Cancer Society, Inc.