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Incorporating Palliative Care Principles to Improve Patient Care and Quality of Life in Urologic Oncology

November 20, 2021

A study recently published in Nature Reviews Urology to discuss incorporating palliative care principles into surgical urologic oncology was conducted by several urology experts, including UPMC Department of Urology physicians Benjamin J. Davies, MD, and Bruce L. Jacobs, MD, MPH.

Palliative care — specialized health care focused on improving quality of life for patients with serious illnesses — can help urologists to care for patients with unmet symptom, coping, and communication needs.

Society guidelines from the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommend incorporating palliative care into standard oncological care, based on multiple randomized trials demonstrating that it significantly improves physical well-being, patient satisfaction and goal concordant care. Misconceptions regarding the objective and ideal timing of palliative care are common; a key concept is that palliative care and treatments seeking to cure or prolong life are not mutually exclusive.

The study concluded that early integration of palliative care, especially in the outpatient setting, improves the quality of life and symptom burden for patients with cancer. By continuously providing support that is grounded in achievable goals, we can relieve patient and caregiver stress while delivering quality care upon diagnosis, into survivorship and as the end-of-life approaches.

Urologists are well positioned to champion the integration of palliative care into surgical urologic oncology and should be aware of palliative care guidelines, indications for palliative care use and how the field of urologic oncology can adopt best practices. As subspecialty palliative care is a scarce clinical resource, it is incumbent upon urologists to enhance their own primary palliative care skills in order to provide the best care to our patients.

Read more about this study.

Other study authors include Lee A. Hugar.

Collaborators not affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh:

Elizabeth M. Wulff-Burchfield
Kansas Health System

Gary S. Winzelberg
UNC Health