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Palliative care among lung cancer patients with and without COPD: a population-based cohort study


Context — Lung cancer patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may have greater palliative care needs due to poor prognosis and symptom burden.

Objectives — We sought to compare the provision of timely palliative care and symptom burden by COPD status.

Methods — We performed a retrospective, population-based cohort study of individuals diagnosed with lung cancer in Ontario, Canada (2009 – 2019) using health administrative databases and cancer registries. The impact of COPD on the probability of receiving palliative care was determined accounting for dying as a competing event, overall and stratified by stage. The provision of palliative care for patients with severe symptoms (Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale score ≥ 7), location of the first palliative care visit and symptom severity were compared by COPD status.

Results — 74,993 patients were included in the study (48% of patients had available symptom data). At the time of lung cancer diagnosis, 50% of patients had COPD. Stage I-III patients with COPD were more likely to receive palliative care (adjusted Hazard Ratio (HR)s: 1.05 to 1.31) with no difference for stage IV (1.02, 95% CI: 1.00 to 1.04). Despite having severe symptoms, very few patients with early-stage disease received palliative care (Stage I: COPD-23% vs. no COPD-18%, SMD=0.12). Most patients (84%) reported severe symptoms and COPD worsened symptom burden, especially among early-stage patients.

Conclusion — COPD impacts the receipt of palliative care and symptom burden for patients with early-stage lung cancer. Many patients with severe symptoms did not receive palliative care, suggesting unmet needs among this vulnerable population.



Butler SJ, Louie AV, Sutradhar R, Paszat L, Brooks D, Gershon AS. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2023; Aug 22 [Epub ahead of print].

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