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Palliat Med. 2006 Jun;20(4):397-406.

'Would you like to talk about your future treatment options'? Discussing the transition from curative cancer treatment to palliative care.

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  • 1Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Locked Bag 1, A'Beckett Street, Victoria, 8006, Australia.


Palliative care focuses on improving quality of life for patients with life-threatening illness and their families. There comes a time when actively pursuing aggressive curative treatment may do more harm than good. The cessation of curative treatment is often viewed as a distinct event; however, current practice guidelines suggest that a palliative approach should be gradually adopted as the disease progresses. The challenge is how to facilitate a sensitive transition from curative to palliative care. On the basis of an extensive literature review, recommended steps for facilitating this transition have been outlined. The recommendations cover: the timing of the discussion; preparing for this discussion; the environment and circumstances of the consultation; initiating the discussion; identifying the information to be provided; responding to the person's emotional reaction; introducing palliative care services; continuity of care; family concerns; cultural and linguistic diversity; concluding the discussion. These steps were based on the best available evidence. However, as there is a paucity of research in this area, only three relevant systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials were identified and only one of these reviews related directly to palliative care. The majority of the relevant research was descriptive evidence. There is a need for more high quality research in this area.

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