The early integration of palliative care shortly after diagnosis of some incurable cancers improves both a patient’s coping abilities and overall quality of life (QOL), according to a study presented at the 2016 Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium in San Francisco, California.1

To evaluate the benefits of early palliative care, researchers enrolled 350 patients recently diagnosed with incurable lung or non-colorectal gastrointestinal cancer. Participants were randomly assigned to receive oncology care in conjunction with early palliative care or oncology care alone.

At 24 weeks, patients who received palliative care were more likely to report using active and engaged coping styles, compared with those who received oncology care alone. Palliative care recipients reported significantly higher QOL and lower levels of depression at 24 weeks than the usual care group.

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“Our research looked at a new measure of a patient’s ability to cope effectively with their diagnosis. What we found was the patients who received early palliative care were more likely to use adaptive coping strategies – meaning they were more likely to take some action to make their lives better as well as to accept their diagnosis,” said lead author Joseph Andrew Greer, PhD, Clinical Director of Psychology and Research Scientist at the Center for Psychiatric Oncology & Behavioral Sciences at Massachusetts General Hospital, in a press release.

RELATED: Early Palliative Care Beneficial for Family Caregivers of Patients With Cancer

Patients in the early palliative care arm were also more likely to report discussing end-of-life care preferences (30% versus 14%).


  1. Early palliative care improves coping, quality of life for patients with incurable cancers [press release]. Alexandria, VA: American Society of Clinical Oncology; September 6, 2016.