Study Finds Palliative Care May Benefit Veterans With Advanced Disease

November 24, 2018

Palliative care may reduce the risk of suicide in veterans who receive a diagnosis of stage 3b or 4 lung cancer, according to the findings of a new study.

PALLIATIVE CARE MAY REDUCE the risk of suicide in veterans who receive a diagnosis of stage 3b or 4 lung cancer, according to the findings of a new study.

The large-scale study, which was published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, involved 20,900 patients with advanced disease who were enrolled in the Veterans Affairs (VA) Central Cancer Registry. Researchers determined that 30 patients had committed suicide — a rate more than five times greater than the average among all veterans of similar age and gender who use VA health, according to the study authors.

However, even one palliative care visit after diagnosis reduced the risk of suicide by 81 percent, the authors said. Palliative care is meant to improve quality of life by providing relief from side effects and stress associated with serious illness and can help with emotional, psychological and spiritual needs.

“Suicide is a significant national public health problem, especially among lung cancer patients and among veterans,” lead author Donald Sullivan, M.D., M.A., M.C.R., an assistant professor of medicine at the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine, said in a press release. “As a result, manifestations of this impact, like social isolation, depression, anxiety, can go undiagnosed and untreated.”

Patients and caregivers should talk with doctors, Sullivan said, and doctors should consider an integrated approach to treatment, such as palliative care and chemotherapy. An earlier introduction of palliative care would also be beneficial, he added.


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