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Palliative Care Programs Are Common But Services Limited

Most cancer centers have a program, though opportunities for education, research are uncommon

TUESDAY, March 16 (HealthDay News) -- While most cancer centers have palliative care programs, they offer a limited range of services and few opportunities for research or professional development, according to a study in the March 17 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

David Hui, M.D., of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and colleagues conducted a survey of 142 cancer center executives and 120 clinical leaders on palliative care practices. The survey, sent to 71 National Cancer Institute (NCI) cancer centers and 71 non-NCI cancer centers, was based on guidelines from the National Quality Forum, palliative care physician suggestions, and medical literature.

The researchers found that, overall, NCI cancer centers were more likely to have a palliative care program (98 percent), a palliative care physician (92 percent), an inpatient palliative care consultation team (92 percent), and an outpatient palliative care clinic (59 percent) than non-NCI centers (78, 74, 56, and 22 percent, respectively). Dedicated palliative care beds and institution-operated hospice services were few (23 percent and 37 percent, respectively), and there were few research programs, fellowships, and rotations for oncology fellows.

"To fulfill American Society of Clinical Oncology's vision of full integration of palliative care as a routine part of comprehensive cancer care by 2020, we urgently need to consolidate infrastructure such as outpatient clinics and palliative care units, increase training of palliative care professionals and oncologists, conduct research on novel integration models and quality improvement measures, educate patients and their families, and advocate for public health policy changes," the authors write.

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