Oncotarget 2017 Oct 23;8(52):89939-89948. Epub 2017 Sep 23.
Department of Pediatric Oncology, Hematology and Clinical Immunology, Center for Child and Adolescent Health, Medical Faculty, Heinrich Heine University of Dusseldorf, Dusseldorf, Germany.
Introduction: Hematologic malignancies (HM) represent the most common neoplasms in childhood. Despite improved overall survival rates, they are still a major contributor to cancer death in children.
Aims: To determine the proportion of children with HM in pediatric palliative care (PPC) and to identify the clinical characteristics and symptoms in comparison to children with extracranial solid tumors (non HM patients).
Patients And Methods: This study was conducted as a single-center retrospective cohort study of patients in the care of a large specialized PPC team.
Results: Fifteen HM and 50 non HM patients were included. Symptoms in which HM patients scored significantly higher than non HM patients were mucositis, difficulty moving, somnolence, fatigue, petechiae and paleness. Blood transfusions were more frequently administered to HM patients, but large external hemorrhage was not observed in any child. A large variety of drugs and appliances were needed by the patients, with morphine being the most frequently prescribed drug. During the study period, a much larger and over the years even increasing number of HM patients (not in the care of the PPC team) died in hospital with an (assumed) curative intent, with two thirds dying in the ICU.
Conclusions: Children with HM were referred to outpatient PPC with almost the full clinical picture of advanced leukemia. Noteworthy, the number of children with HM dying at home is decreasing in our center, instead a substantial proportion received high-intensity medical hospital care including novel anticancer therapies. These patients thus seem to be at an increased risk of dying in hospital as the right time to transfer them to palliative care is oftentimes missed.