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Utility and Use of Palliative Care Screening Tools in Routine Oncology Practice

Abernethy, Amy P. MD*†; Wheeler, Jane L. MSPH; Currow, David C. BMed, MPH

doi: 10.1097/PPO.0b013e3181f45df0
Special Issue on the Role of the Oncologist in Palliative Care

Palliative care, which seeks to alleviate suffering and optimize quality of life, is an increasingly recognized and valued medical subspecialty. With its focus on identifying and managing symptoms and problems encountered in expected functional decline, the domain of palliative care overlaps significantly with that of oncology, where patients typically experience a host of disease- and treatment-related effects. Assessment instruments have been developed and validated in the context of both disciplines, but oncology may benefit from the inclusion of palliative care screening instruments specifically developed for patients with advanced, life-limiting illnesses. New methods of screening, particularly technology-based ones such as electronic data capture, allow greater flexibility across care settings and longitudinal data capture for ongoing evaluation. This article reviews frequently used and available screening instruments for common palliative needs in cancer patients and provides an example of a novel technology-based screening approach to quickly identify and address a critical patient concern.

From the *Division of Medical Oncology, Department of Medicine, †Duke Cancer Care Research Program, Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC; and ‡Flinders University, Bedford Park, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.

Reprints: Amy P. Abernethy, MD, Duke University Medical Center, Box 3436, Durham, NC 27710. E-mail:

No funding was secured for this review.

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.