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Support Care Cancer. 2008 Jan;16(1):3-8. Epub 2007 Apr 26.

Needs of developing the skills of palliative care at the oncology ward: an audit of symptoms among 203 consecutive cancer patients in Finland.

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  • 1Department of Oncology and Radiotherapy, Turku University Hospital, P.O. Box 52, Savitehtaankatu 1, Turku, Finland. eeva.salminen@tyks.fi

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

To clarify the prevalence and severity of the symptoms, 203 consecutive patients with breast, prostate and other cancers treated mainly for palliation were surveyed.

MATERIALS AND METHODS:

The series includes 116 men and 87 women with the mean age of 65 years (range 27-86 years). The patients filled-up the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS) questionnaire with 11 items describing cancer-related symptoms in the visual analogue scale (VAS).

RESULTS:

Altogether, 98% of the patients reported at least 1 of the 10 symptoms. There was a significant difference in the score frequencies between the 10 symptoms (p = 0.0001), fatigue receiving the highest frequency (50.8%) of the high scores. Fatigue was also the single most frequent symptom reported by 86.3% of the patients, followed by pain at effort (71.5%), sleeplessness (71.1%) and depression (59.0%). The most disturbing syndrome was pain (n = 48, 23.9%), followed by fatigue (n = 28, 13.9%), depression (9.5%) and dyspnoea (6.0%). Altogether, 75% had more than 5 symptoms and 10% reported all 10 symptoms. The total number of symptoms was not significantly associated with sex (p = 0.781) or age (p = 0.062), but it was associated with the diagnostic group; patients with breast cancer (n = 41) and those with prostate cancer (n = 44) reported fewer symptoms than the patients with other cancers (n = 116)(p = 0.023, Kruskal-Wallis).

CONCLUSIONS:

Symptoms related to cancer are common among patients treated with palliative indication, but if not specifically surveyed, may remain un-detected and un-treated. ESAS as a clinical tool brings more symptoms to the attention of the physicians and helps in getting a comprehensive insight into the patient's problems.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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