Harvard Women's Health Watch

In the journals: Early palliative care extends life in lung cancer study

Palliative care is pain relief and other measures taken to help patients cope with the physical and psychosocial effects of serious illness and difficult treatments like chemotherapy. Many people think of it as "comfort" care provided mostly in the last weeks of life, when nothing else can be done. But experts say it should be offered sooner, in conjunction with medical care focused on treatment and recovery. Now, a study has found that lung cancer patients who get palliative care early on, along with standard medical therapy aimed at treating their illness, are happier and more comfortable and live longer than patients receiving standard care alone. Results of the study were published in The New England Journal of Medicine (Aug. 19, 2010).

The study. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston randomly assigned 151 women and men newly diagnosed with advanced (metastatic) non–small-cell lung cancer to receive either standard care (for example, chemotherapy) or standard care plus early palliative care. Non–small-cell lung cancer is the most common form of lung cancer and the leading cause of cancer death; on average, patients survive less than a year after the advanced form is diagnosed.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »