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Performance status and survival in cancer patients undergoing palliative care: retrospective study


Objective Accurate forecasting the life expectancy of patients with cancer is adamantly needed for adequate decision-making in the Palliative Care Services (PCS) context. Nonetheless, physician forecast is often inaccurate, hindering end of life (EOL) decisions. In this study, we determined the prognostic value of two oncology performance status (PS) scales at first referral to PCS.

Methods Retrospective analysis of 6310 patients consecutively admitted to PCS at the Instituto Nacional de Cancerología (2012–2018). Demographic and PS (as per Karnofsky (KPS) and Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) scales) information was retrieved and the overall survival of patients calculated according to PS. Concordance of each scale was assessed in the overall population and according to age.

Results Overall survival was significantly associated with ECOG and KPS (p<0.05). A total of 2278 (36.1%) and 2296 (36.4%) patients were referred to PCS in their last month of life and most had a poor PS (ECOG 3–4, 59.1%; KPS <50, 54.4%). Both PS scales had high concordance in the overall population (K=0.6189 (KPS); K=0.6058 (ECOG)), but a higher value was observed among the subgroup of patients aged ≥65 (K=0.6339 (KPS); 0.6252 (ECOG)). Concordance was lowest among younger (≤39) patients.

Conclusions PS as assessed by the most widely known tools is strongly associated with overall survival of patients with cancer attending PCS. No large differences were observed among the scales, though results slightly favour the use of KPS. Early referral to PCS and accurate survival prediction can aid in relevant decision-making for patients approaching EOL.

  • cancer
  • prognosis
  • survivorship
  • supportive care

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. The database will be available upon request. Adriana Peña Nieves. E-mail:

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