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Patients with ovarian cancer who utilized palliative care tended to have fewer hospital readmissions than those who did not, according to a recent study.
Palliative care, which focuses on easing the symptoms associated with cancer and its treatments, decreased the rate at which patients with ovarian cancer were readmitted to the hospital in a 90-day timeframe, according to recent research presented at the Society of Gynecologic Oncology’s Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer.
Study author Dr. Alex Francoeur, resident at UCLA Health, explained for patients who had a palliative care consultation, the 90-day hospital readmission rate was 27% compared with 44% for those who did not have a palliative care consultation. Additionally, over the course of a full calendar year, hospital readmission rates dropped by 50% for patients with ovarian cancer who had palliative care. This also led to cost savings for both the patients and health care systems.
“Many organizations recommend (palliative care) implementation at the time of diagnosis,” Francoeur said in an interview with CURE®’s sister publication, Cancer Network®. “Unfortunately, the data and research still shows that patients are really being referred to (palliative care) late, more often at the end of life. So I think we have a lot to do in increasing earlier referrals for our patients.”
Francoeur explained that people often have misconceptions about palliative care, mainly that it is reserved for people when they are at the end of their life. However, that’s not the case, and the American Cancer Society noted that palliative care can be given at any point of the treatment continuum: at diagnosis, throughout treatment and even within the survivorship phase.
READ MORE: What Is Palliative Care? Top 4 Questions Answered
“Patients can always advocate for themselves,” Francoeur said. “Asking if there is a palliative care team in the hospital would definitely be a warranted request for patients with advanced cancer, and most large institutions do have palliative care services. It would be great to ask your doctor how to get connected with those.”
Palliative care is the concept of treating symptoms associated with cancer and versus cancer treatment, which is trying to treat the cancer itself. And so these are usually doctors who are subspecialty trained in palliative medicine and so they're able to help patients focus on symptoms they may be experiencing from cancer or from the treatment for their cancer, such as pain, nausea, vomiting, neuropathy, numbness or weakness. And so these are doctors that kind of help alleviate all of those symptoms that can make cancer treatment challenging for patients.
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