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Indian J Palliat Care. 2019 Jan-Mar;25(1):153-155. doi: 10.4103/IJPC.IJPC_142_18.

Role of Early Palliative Care in Advanced Head-and-Neck Cancers Patients.

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Department of Onco-anaesthesia and Palliative Medicine, Dr B. R. Ambedkar, IRCH, AIIMS, New Delhi, India.
General Internal Medicine and Palliative Care Physician, Section Chief of the VA Palo Alto-Stanford Palliative Care Program & Professor of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA.
Executive Director of Strategic Programs for the Chief Medical Officer, Stanford Healthcare, Stanford, California, USA.
Department of Pain and Palliative Care, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne, Australia.
Department of Surgical Oncology, Dr B. R. Ambedkar, IRCH, AIIMS, New Delhi, India.


Head-and-neck cancers (HNCs) are significant in India. Poverty, illiteracy, lack of access to healthcare, and poor treatment infrastructure pose a major challenge in the management of these cancers. The majority of these patients present with advanced stage and are not amenable to curative treatment. The majority have the potential to benefit from palliative care (PC) interventions. Our experience has been that usually the referrals from HNC clinic for PC are at the end-of-life or terminal stage. Unfortunately, in the state of intractable suffering, it is difficult for patients to understand and fully benefit from the role of PC. Developing an effective working relationship and communication between the PC service and referring surgeons or oncologists is a key to foster more timely, appropriate referral, as both patients and clinicians often misunderstand or fail to recognize the role of PC. In preparation for a quality improvement project to improve access to PC for HNC patients at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, we reviewed the needs, challenges, conceptual models, and potential of early integration of PC in advanced HNC patients.


Early palliative care; head-and-neck cancer; palliative care referral

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