ESMO Calls for Better Supportive and Palliative Care Interventions


Citing a growing rift between the needs of patients with cancer and the actual care they receive, the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) highlighted a need for better supportive and palliative care in a position paper recently published in Annals of Oncology (online December 14, 2017; doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdx757).

“New studies in the field of supportive and palliative care show that there may be a gap between what doctors think is important or disturbing for patients and what patients really need,” said Karin Jordan, MD, ESMO faculty coordinator, in a society press release (December 14, 2017). “With this new position paper, we wanted to call attention to the fact that, as well as anti-tumor treatment, cancer patients need physical, psychological, social, and spiritual support at every stage of the disease from diagnosis. We refer to this as patient-centered care.”

Individual patients will express different physical, psychological, social, existential, and spiritual needs at different cancer stages, the position paper advises. As a result, patient-centered oncology care cannot be standardized even though it is provided through a standard framework.

Oncologists should use detailed physical and psychological assessments routinely in their care to allow for personalized supportive and palliative interventions. In addition, patient-reported outcomes should be encouraged since studies have linked requesting them with better quality of life, fewer hospitalizations, and increased survival compared with standard care.


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“Patients must ‘set the tone’ in supportive and palliative care,” said Dr Jordan. “We need to make it easy for them to tell us how they feel, what they need, and, of course, allow them to be fully involved in decision-making if we are to provide optimal patient-centered care.”

The position paper includes chapters addressing key patient-centered care interventions, end-of-life care, the need for specific training in patient-centered care, the role of multidisciplinary teams, integrating health care resources, and research needs and resources in supportive and palliative care.—Jolynn Tumolo