Integrating Palliative Care for Patients with Leukemia

Palliative care clinicians are physicians, nurse practitioners and other types of health care providers trained to support patients with serious illnesses and their family and friends. They are experts in managing symptoms related to illnesses, helping patients and family cope with their disease, and in communicating about difficult topics such as prognosis and end of life care.

Studies have shown that having palliative care clinicians involved earlier in the course of illness improves the care and experience of patients with advanced cancers. However, the role of palliative care clinicians in patients with leukemia has not been studied. Patients with leukemia receive treatment to try to cure their illness, but still face experience significant physical and psychological symptoms. Despite the fact that they spend a great deal of time in the hospital, these symptoms are often poorly controlled.

We previously demonstrated that involvement of palliative care benefits patients with leukemia and other blood cancers who are undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplants (the transplant of bone marrow cells from a healthy donor). We propose to build upon our previous work to develop a palliative care model to improve the care of patients who have a new diagnosis of leukemia.

We are hopeful that integrating palliative care clinicians into the care of patients with leukemia will improve their symptom burden and quality of life.

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