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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 61-66

Interval between first palliative care consultation and death among patients in a comprehensive cancer center in Saudi Arabia


1 Department of Palliative Care, King Fahad Medical City; Department of Palliative Care, Centre for Postgraduate Studies in Family Medicine, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
2 Department of Palliative Care, King Fahad Medical City, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
3 Department of Paediatrics, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Correspondence Address:
Sami Ayed Alshammary
King Fahad Medical City; Centre for Postgraduate Studies in Family Medicine, Riyadh
Saudi Arabia
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DOI: 10.4103/1658-600X.156107

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Introduction: Palliative care is a multidisciplinary approach that aims to improve the quality of life of patients with life-threatening illnesses. It has been recognized as a crucial part of patient care in oncology. Palliative care service was established in the comprehensive cancer center of King Fahad Medical City (KFMC), Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in March 2010. The objective of this study was to determine the interval between the first palliative care consult (PCC1) and death, and explore the possible cause of suggestive short timeframe between PCC1 and death. Patients and Methods: This study included 210 cancer patients who had their PCC1 in KFMC within the period of March 2012 and March 2014. Demographic information, cancer diagnosis, date of cancer diagnosis, reason for referral, all symptoms reported in Palliative Care Unit, and date of death were gathered from the patients' charts. The interval between the PCC1 and death were computed and analyzed. Results: Of the 210 patients, 121 (57.6%) were female, 127 (60.5%) were <60 years old, and 190 (90.5%) had non-haematological tumours. The main reasons for referral were symptom control (62.4%), symptom control and end of life (EOL) care (12.4%), symptom control and transfer of care (11.4%), and EOL care (8.6%). The median interval between PCC1 and death, diagnosis to PCC1, and diagnosis to death intervals were 19, 212, and 360 days, respectively. Patients diagnosed with haematological tumours were referred relatively earlier to palliative care. The difference in the mean (haematology > non-haematology) for the interval between PCC1 and death was 146.2 days (P < 0.001). Conclusions: Late referrals to palliative care services KFMC is the strongest predictor of the short interval between PCC1 to death of advanced stage cancer patients. Identifying the potential cause of the late referrals can lead to developing optimal policies for the timely referral of cancer patients to palliative care upon diagnosis regardless of the stage of their disease. Education and advocacy are needed among the referring oncologists in the cancer center for earlier access to palliative care. Future studies are needed to establish the appropriate timing of the PCC1.


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