Cancer the most common diagnosis in palliative care patients


More than a quarter of the patients in palliative care have a primary diagnosis of cancer, according to the Center to Advance Palliative Care.

A survey of 351 palliative care programs showed that 27% of their patients had been diagnosed with cancer in 2016, more than twice as many patients who had a cardiac (13%) or pulmonary (12%) diagnosis. The next most common primary diagnosis category in 2016 was neurologic at 8%, with a tie at 6% between diagnoses classified as infectious or complex chronic, followed by patients with dementia at 5%, Maggie Rogers and Tamara Dumanovsky, PhD, of the CAPC reported.

Most common primary diagnosis categories
By specialty, more than half of referrals to palliative care came from hospital medicine (53.5%), while 12% were referred by internal/family medicine, another 12% by pulmonary/critical care medicine, and 7% by oncology, Ms. Rogers and Dr. Dumanovsky said in their analysis of data from the CAPC’s National Palliative Care Registry.

A medical/surgical unit was the referring site for 43% of palliative care referrals in 2016, with 26% of patients coming from an intensive care unit, 13% from a step-down unit, and 8% from an oncology unit, they noted.

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