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Palliative care in patients with cancer

What's new

Added 2023 ESMO, 2022 ASCO, 2022 MASCC, and 2021 ASPN guidelines on palliative care in patients with cancer.

Guidelines

Key sources

The following summarized guidelines for the evaluation and management of palliative care in patients with cancer are prepared by our editorial team based on guidelines from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO 2024; 2022; 2021; 2017; 2014), the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO 2023; 2022; 2021; 2018), the Japan Endocrine Society (JES 2023), the American Academy of Family...
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Classification and risk stratification

Prognostic assessment: as per ESMO 2023 guidelines, use clinical experience to predict the survival of patients with advanced incurable cancer, such as a prognosis of a few months or less, recognizing potential limitations and the general tendency to overestimate survival.
B
consider supplementing personal clinical judgement with survival estimates from multiple professionals.
B
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Medical management

Initiation of palliative care, timing: as per ASCO 2017 guidelines, initiate early palliative care within 8 weeks of diagnosis in patients with newly diagnosed advanced cancer.
B

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  • Initiation of palliative care (components)

  • Initiation of palliative care (providers)

  • Discontinuation of cancer treatment

  • Management of pain (assessment)

  • Management of pain (general principles)

  • Management of pain (non-opioid analgesics)

  • Management of pain (opioids)

  • Management of pain (ketamine)

  • Management of pain (cannabinoids)

  • Management of pain (corticosteroids)

  • Management of pain (osteoclast inhibitors)

  • Management of pain (neuropathic pain)

  • Management of pain (intrathecal analgesia)

  • Management of pain (neurolysis)

  • Management of pain (nerve block)

  • Management of pain (percutaneous radiofrequency ablation)

  • Management of pain (radiofrequency lesioning)

  • Management of pain (spinal cord stimulation)

  • Management of pain (external beam radiation therapy)

  • Management of pain (cordotomy)

  • Management of pain (myelotomy)

  • Management of pain (DREZ-otomy)

  • Management of pain (cingulotomy)

  • Management of pain (vertebral augmentation)

  • Management of pain (alternative and complementary therapies)

  • Management of nausea and vomiting

  • Management of esophageal dysphagia

  • Management of gastric outlet obstruction

  • Management of malignant biliary obstruction

  • Management of bowel obstruction (antiemetics)

  • Management of bowel obstruction (laxatives)

  • Management of bowel obstruction (corticosteroids)

  • Management of bowel obstruction (opioids)

  • Management of bowel obstruction (anticholinergics)

  • Management of bowel obstruction (water-soluble contrast agents)

  • Management of bowel obstruction (nutritional support)

  • Management of bowel obstruction (palliative surgery)

  • Management of bowel obstruction (bowel decompression)

  • Management of bowel obstruction (self-expanding metallic stents)

  • Management of dyspnea (evaluation)

  • Management of dyspnea (general principles)

  • Management of dyspnea (opioids)

  • Management of dyspnea (benzodiazepines)

  • Management of dyspnea (antidepressants)

  • Management of dyspnea (bronchodilators)

  • Management of dyspnea (corticosteroids)

  • Management of dyspnea (sedation)

  • Management of dyspnea (airflow interventions)

  • Management of dyspnea (supplemental oxygen)

  • Management of dyspnea (noninvasive ventilation)

  • Management of dyspnea (other measures)

  • Management of noisy breathing

  • Management of delirium

  • Management of fatigue (indications for screening)

  • Management of fatigue (choice of screening tool)

  • Management of fatigue (clinical assessment)

  • Management of fatigue (laboratory evaluation)

  • Management of fatigue (general counseling)

  • Management of fatigue (indications for referral)

  • Management of fatigue (general principles of management)

  • Management of fatigue (pharmacotherapy)

  • Management of fatigue (physical activity)

  • Management of fatigue (psychosocial interventions)

  • Management of fatigue (alternative treatments)

  • Management of fatigue (dietary supplements)

  • Management of fatigue (assessment of treatment response)

Nonpharmacologic interventions

Nutritional support: as per ESMO 2021 guidelines, reduce the invasiveness of nutritional interventions and provide dietary counseling and oral supplements in patients with an expected survival of less than a few weeks or days.
B
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  • Psychological support

  • Spiritual support

  • Bereavement care

Therapeutic procedures

Blood transfusion: as per ESMO 2021 guidelines, recognize that RBC and platelet transfusions may have limited benefits in the last weeks of life.
B

Patient education

Shared decision-making
As per ESMO 2021 guidelines:
Ensure effective communication and shared decision making at the end of life.
B
Prepare patients and families strategically, respecting personal wishes and beliefs, to reduce adverse bereavement outcomes.
B

Preventative measures

Thromboprophylaxis: as per ESMO 2021 guidelines, do not administer prophylactic anticoagulation at end of life.
D