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Symptoms of advanced cancer in palliative medicine: a longitudinal study


Objectives This study aimed to examine the symptomatology of patients with advanced cancer at admittance to palliative care services and to investigate how the symptomatology changed during the first month, and whether these changes were associated with various patient characteristics.

Methods In a longitudinal study in Chile, outpatients with advanced cancer completed the questionnaires European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire Core 15 Palliative Care and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Prevalence and severity of symptoms and problems (S/Ps) at baseline were calculated. Differences in S/P scores from baseline to follow-up were calculated overall and according to patient characteristics. Multiple linear regression was used to study the associations between patient characteristics and changes in S/P scores.

Results At baseline, 201 patients answered the questionnaires and 177 completed the follow-up. Fatigue, pain and sleeping difficulties were the most prevalent S/Ps reported, and also had the highest mean scores at baseline. S/P scores at baseline varied significantly according to sex, age, civil status, residence, children, prior and current antineoplastic treatment. Emotional functioning, pain, sleeping difficulties, constipation and anxiety improved significantly during the first month of palliative care. Residence, cohabitation status, diagnosis and current antineoplastic treatment were associated with changes in S/P scores.

Conclusions Patients reported moderate-to-severe levels of S/Ps at admittance to palliative care. Several S/Ps improved the first month. Certain patient characteristics were associated with changes in S/P scores. This information may guide clinicians to more effective interventions that can improve the quality of life of patients receiving palliative care.

  • quality of life
  • symptoms and symptom management
  • cancer
  • pain
  • clinical decisions

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. The data utilised in this study are available through the first author at the Palliative Care Research Unit, Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, Bispebjerg Hospital, University of Copenhagen. Restrictions apply to the availability of these data.

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