Background: Children with cancer suffer significant morbidity throughout therapy and often face an uncertain prognosis. Because palliative care teams can provide an additional layer of support with symptom management and communication, we conducted a prospective study assessing the feasibility of early palliative care consultation for children with high-risk malignancies.
Procedure: This study was part of a larger prospective study examining the impact of early palliative care consultation. Children were eligible if they were <22 years old and had a high-risk malignancy, recurrence, or required hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Data were collected from the medical record on diagnosis, days to consultation, acceptability of consultation to family/staff, and overall survival. Feasibility was defined as enrollment of >75% of eligible patients, palliative care consultation within 1 month of eligibility, and patient/family satisfaction.
Results: Twenty of 25 (80%) eligible patients were approached and received a palliative care consultation at initial diagnosis (7), recurrence (12), or time of HSCT (1). Median age of the children was 5 years (0.1-20 years). Median time from new diagnosis/recurrence to consultation was 12 days (2-180 days); 17 (85%) received the consultation within 30 days. Eleven (55%) of the 20 children died. Median time of consultation prior to death was 128 days (10-648 days). Ten of the 11 (91%) received their consultation >30 days prior to death. No families or oncologists declined an early consultation.
Conclusions: Early palliative care consultation is feasible for children with high-risk cancer and is acceptable to children, families, and pediatric oncologists.
Keywords: consultation; early integration; feasibility; high risk; palliative care; pediatric cancer.
© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.