A research conducted at the University of Leedsâ Academic Unit of Palliative Care and funded by the charity Yorkshire Cancer Research, showed that a longer duration of palliative care is associated with fewer emergency hospital admissions and fewer hospital deaths. Also, patients that are in an advanced stage of cancer have a better quality of life in their last weeks if they receive early access to palliative care.
What palliative care aims to do is make patients as comfortable as possible by providing psychological and social support and by managing pain and other distressing symptoms.
Previous studies have shown that palliative care intervention is associated with an increased proportion of deaths at home and a reduction in emergency admissions. However, no study has investigated when and for how long patients need access to this care in order to receive quality of life benefits, said lead author Dr Lucy Ziegler from Yorkshire Cancer Research Academic Fellow.
The research was published in BMJ Open and is the first one of its kind in the UK. The study collected data from 2,479 adults that died from cancer between January 2010 and February 2012 in Leeds, looking into the specific moment they had accessed palliative care and how it affected their quality of life.
Our research shows that for those with advanced cancer, access to palliative care and longer duration of care is significantly associated with better end of life quality indicators. Our study provides new evidence to support the early integration of palliative care for cancer patients, explained Dr Lucy.
The study found that out of the 2,479 patients, 64.5% accessed palliative care support, which was mainly received by young people or females. Those suffering from gastrointestinal cancers were significantly more likely to receive palliative care, while those with lung cancer or cancers of the central nervous system were significantly less likely to try it. Having access to palliative care was also associated with being twice more likely to obtain strong opioids for pain relief.
This research proves how important palliative care is for patients in an advanced stage of cancer and further investigation will be carried out by Yorkshire Cancer Research, which has recently announced a £1.3 million investment in a palliative care programme.