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Due to the multiple physical, psychological, existential, and social symptoms involved, patients with advanced cancer often have a reduced quality of life (QoL), which requires specialized palliative care (SPC) interventions. The primary objective of the present systematic review was to review the existing literature about SPC and its effect on QoL, on physical and psychological symptoms, and on survival in adult patients with advanced cancer.
We utilized a search strategy based on the PICO (problem/population, intervention, comparison, and outcome) framework and employed terminology related to cancer, QoL, symptoms, mood, and palliative care. The search was performed in Embase, PubMed, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials. Selected studies were analyzed and categorized according to methods, results, quality of evidence, and strength of recommendation.
Six randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were selected for analysis (out of a total of 1,115 studies). Two other studies were found by hand search, one of which was only published in conference abstract form. The RCTs differed in terms of aims, interventions, control groups, and outcomes; however, the primary aim of all of them was to investigate the effect of SPC on patient QoL. Five studies found improved QoL in the intervention group. Physical symptom intensity decreased in two studies, and three studies found improved mood in the intervention group. However, physical and psychological symptoms were secondary outcomes in these studies. Survival was improved in two studies. All the studies offered generalizability, but the level of evidence validity varied among them.
Significance of results:
Due to several methodological limitations, the evidence offered in these studies ranged from low to high. The evidence in this field of study in general is still nascent, but there is growing support for the utilization of SPC to improve the quality of life of adult patients with advanced cancer. The evidence that SPC reduces physical and psychological symptoms is moderate, while the evidence that it prolongs survival is low.
Patients with incurable cancer and their informal caregivers have numerous psychological and psychosocial needs. Many of these patients wish to receive their care and die at home. Few home-based specialized palliative care (SPC) interventions systematically integrate psychological support. We present a psychological intervention for patient–caregiver dyads developed for an ongoing randomized controlled trial (RCT) of home-based SPC, known as Domus, as well as the results of an assessment of its acceptability and feasibility.
The Domus model of SPC for patients with incurable cancer and their caregivers offered systematic psychological assessment and dyadic intervention as part of interdisciplinary care. Through accelerated transition to SPC, the aim of the model was to enhance patients' chances of receiving care and dying at home. Integration of psychological support sought to facilitate this goal by alleviating distress in patients and caregivers. Psychologists provided needs-based sessions based on existential-phenomenological therapy. Feasibility and acceptability were investigated by examining enrollment, nonparticipation, and completion of psychological sessions.
Enrollment in the RCT and uptake of the psychological intervention indicated that it was feasible and acceptable to patients and caregivers. The strengths of the intervention included its focus on dyads, psychological distress, and existential concerns, as well as interdisciplinary collaboration and psychological interventions offered according to need. Its main limitation was a lack of an intervention for other family members.
Significance of Results:
Our results show that psychological intervention can be systematically integrated into SPC and that it appears feasible to provide dyadic needs-based sessions with an existential therapeutic approach. The Domus RCT will provide evidence of the efficacy of a novel model of multidisciplinary SPC.
Due to an urgent need for specialized palliative care (SPC) for patients with advanced cancer, an overview of available information on organization and outcomes of home-based SPC would be valuable. Our systematic review aims to give an overview of available information on the organization and outcomes of home-based SPC for patients with advanced cancer. Outcomes related to place of death, survival time, quality of life, performance status, and symptom management are included.
A PICO process search strategy consisting of terms related to cancer, palliation, and home care was employed. The search was conducted in PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane from January 1, 2000, to January 27, 2015. A hand search of the reference lists of the included studies was also performed.
A total of 5 articles (out of 2080 abstracts) were selected for analysis. Three additional studies were added by the hand search. Six observational and two interventional studies were evaluated. In all of these studies, the description of the SPC service was limited to the composition of the staff—no other organizational aspects were detailed. From 44 to 90% of the patients receiving home-based SPC died at home. Studies including survival and quality of life had divergent outcomes, and overall performance status did not improve. However, symptom control did improve over time.
Significance of results:
There is a lack of controlled clinical trials and organizational descriptions regarding home-based SPC for patients with advanced cancer, resulting in poor information and a lack of evidence. Generally, home-based SPC seems to have some positive effect on pain and dyspnea, but more high-quality studies are required.
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