1Division of Hepatology, Department of Medicine, Einstein Healthcare Network, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
2Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
3Brookdale Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York, USA.
Background: Patients with hepatocellular cancer (HCC) are at risk for poor quality of life (QoL) and high symptom burden, coupled with limited treatment options. Palliative care (PC) can play an important role in reducing the suffering of this population, but remains underutilized. Aim: To demonstrate feasibility of an outpatient PC intervention within HCC care. Methods: This is a pilot randomized controlled trial conducted at an academic center. All stages of HCC patients (except Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer stage D) with a scheduled hepatology appointment were eligible. Patients were randomized to receive PC intervention or usual care (control arm). In the PC arm, patients received PC from a PC provider at enrollment and at three months from the baseline visit, in addition to continued standard of care. Control arm received only standard care. All patients completed FACT-Hep (Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Hepatobiliary Cancer) and modified Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale at baseline and at three-month visit. Descriptive statistics were utilized to summarize questionnaires, and change in QoL and symptoms from baseline to three months were compared between the two study groups. Results: Of the 109 approached, 57 patients (52.3%) consented to enroll, and 52 (91%) completed the study. QoL and symptom burden assessments demonstrated impaired QoL and high symptom burden in both arms of the study. At least 50% of enrolled patients in each arm had some degree of fatigue, pain, sleep disturbance, and appetite loss, at baseline. Post-intervention, symptom burden and QoL improved in the intervention arm and remained same or worsened in the control group. All FACT-Hep scores decreased numerically among controls and increased numerically among patients in the PC intervention group. Conclusion: Outpatient PC intervention within routine HCC care is feasible, and can potentially improve QoL and symptoms.