Awareness of Terminal Cancer Doesn't Impact Survival

Use of palliative care and nonuse of ICU are not associated with reduced survival time

THURSDAY, May 19 (HealthDay News) -- Patients' awareness that they have terminal cancer and use of a palliative care facility are not associated with reduced survival time, according to a study published online May 16 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Young Ho Yun, M.D., Ph.D., from the National Cancer Center in Goyang, South Korea, and colleagues analyzed the impact of awareness of their terminal status and use of palliative care or nonuse of the intensive care unit (ICU) on the survival of cancer patients. Questionnaires were administered to 619 terminally ill cancer patients. During a six-month follow-up, the impact of the disclosure and subsequent treatment on survival was assessed in 481 patients.

The investigators identified 466 deaths during the follow-up, 19 percent of which occurred within one month. A total of 41.3 percent of patients lived for three months and 17.7 percent lived for six months. A median survival time of 69 days was seen after the cancer was judged to be terminal. Awareness of terminal status at baseline, use of palliative care, and general prostration were not associated with a reduction in a patient's survival on multivariate analysis. Poor Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 1.37) and use of the ICU (aHR, 1.47) were significantly correlated with reduced survival.

"Our findings can help dispel the myth that patients' awareness of terminal illness, use of palliative care, or nonuse of an ICU hastens a patient's death," the authors write.

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