More symptoms mean greater risk of readmission for cancer patients: Study

New study focuses on symptom severity and prevalence in hospitalized cancer patients comparing uncontrolled symptoms and hospital stay, readmission.
By Amy Wallace  |  Oct. 23, 2017 at 1:23 PM
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Oct. 23 (UPI) -- Patients with advanced stage cancer with more severe physical and psychological symptoms are at a greater risk of longer hospital stays and readmissions.

In a study, published today in Cancer, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital found a relationship between the number and severity of symptoms in patients with advanced stage cancer and an increase in hospital stays and readmissions.

"We know that hospitalized patients with advanced cancer often experience a higher symptom burden compared with those treated in the outpatient setting, but until now, most efforts to improve symptom management have focused on ambulatory patients," Dr. Ryan Nipp, an instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in a press release.

"There is a critical need to focus on efforts to alleviate suffering among hospitalized patients with advanced cancer. For example, future efforts should determine the efficacy of implementing symptom monitoring and supportive care interventions for such patients in an effort to relieve their symptoms, improve quality of life and enhance the quality of their cancer care."

Of 1,036 study participants with advanced cancer, who received palliative care for comfort and pain relief between September 2014 to May 2016 at MGH, more than half reported moderate to severe fatigue, pain, lack of appetite, drowsiness and overall poor well-being. One-quarter of patients reported significant depression or anxiety.

The study found that the more significant the physical and psychological symptoms in patients, the higher the risk of longer hospital stays and increased risk of unplanned readmissions.

These patients were not the only group that have higher risks of unplanned hospital readmission rates.

"Hospitalized patients with advanced cancer experience an immense burden of physical and psychological symptoms," Nipp said. "Patients' symptoms represent potentially modifiable risk factors, and prior research has shown that interventions aimed at symptom improvement can enhance patient-reported outcomes."

"We found novel results regarding the relationship between patients' symptoms and their use of health care services, which highlight the critical need to develop and test interventions addressing the symptoms experienced by hospitalized patients with advanced cancer to improve both the care these patients receive and their utilization of health care services."

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