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J Pediatr Oncol Nurs. 2004 May-Jun;21(3):175-9.

End-of-life research as a priority for pediatric oncology.

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Division of Nursing Research, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN, USA.


Approximately 2,200 children and adolescents die a cancer-related death each year in the United States; of these, almost 90% will die while experiencing 2 to 8 troubling symptoms. With improved symptom control and end-of-life care, these patients might suffer less before they die and their survivors might experience fewer or less intense adverse physical and mental conditions secondary to their bereavement. The focus of this article is on five key areas related to end of life where research is critically needed; (a) the characteristics of cancer-related death and the profiles of survivorship in bereaved family members and health care providers, (b) the trajectory of dying in children and adolescents and a comparison of care delivery preferred by the family and that actually delivered, (c) end-of-life decision making, (d) the financial costs of a child or adolescent dying a cancer-related death and associated policy making, and (e) outcomes of symptom-directed or bereavement interventions. Knowing the characteristics of cancer-related deaths in children and adolescents will help researchers and clinicians develop and test effective interventions related to symptom management, decision making, and availability of care delivery models that match the dying child's needs and preferences. Such interventions could also contribute to the highest quality and cost-effective care being provided to the bereaved survivors.

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