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J Pain Symptom Manage. 2001 Aug;22(2):649-56.

Prospective assessment of symptom palliation for patients attending a rapid response radiotherapy program. feasibility of telephone follow-up.

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Rapid Response Radiotherapy Program, Toronto-Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre, University of Toronto, 2075 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M4N 3M5, Canada.


Clinical trials generally include motivated patients with relatively good performance status. This can result in an overestimation of the effectiveness of an intervention. Clinic follow-up protocols for outcome assessment after palliative treatments suffer from high attrition rates. In this study, the feasibility of telephone follow-up for the assessment of symptom palliation in patients receiving outpatient palliative radiotherapy as a tool to evaluate outcome was examined. Patients referred for palliative radiotherapy were asked to rate their symptom distress using the modified Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS) at initial consultation. Patient demographics and analgesic consumption were collected. For those who received radiotherapy, follow-up was conducted through telephone interviews at week 1, 2, 4, 8, and 12 post-treatment using the same modified ESAS and analgesic diary. One hundred ninety patients received radiotherapy to 256 sites from January to August 1999. Seventy-eight patients (41%) died during the 12-week follow-up period. The percentage of surviving patients responding to the telephone interview ranged from 63% to 68% during the 12-week study. Telephone follow-up is a feasible tool for the prospective outcome assessment of symptom palliation in this population. It compares well to clinic visits or mailed questionnaires. However, to improve the follow-up rates, other modalities may also need to be implemented.

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