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Palliat Med. 2011 Sep;25(6):630-41. doi: 10.1177/0269216310391692. Epub 2011 Jan 12.

Haematological malignancy: are patients appropriately referred for specialist palliative and hospice care? A systematic review and meta-analysis of published data.

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Epidemiology and Genetics Unit, Department of Health Sciences, Seebohm Rowntree Building, University of York, UK.


Haematological malignancies are complex diseases, affecting the entire age spectrum, and having marked differences in presentation, treatment, progression and outcome. Patients have a significant symptom burden and despite treatment improvements for some sub-types, many patients die from their disease. We carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the proportion of patients with haematological malignancies that received any form of specialist palliative or hospice care. Twenty-four studies were identified, nine of which were suitable for inclusion in the meta-analysis. Our review showed that patients with haematological malignancies were far less likely to receive care from specialist palliative or hospice services compared to other cancers (Risk Ratio 0.46, [95% confidence intervals 0.42-0.50]). There are several possible explanations for this finding, including: ongoing management by the haematology team and consequent strong bonds between staff and patients; uncertain transitions to a palliative approach to care; and sudden transitions, leaving little time for palliative input. Further research is needed to explore: transitions to palliative care; potential unmet patient needs; where patients want to be cared for and die; existing practices in the delivery of palliative and end-of-life care; and barriers to specialist palliative care and hospice referral and how these might be overcome.

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