Appetite-Related Distress Is Burdensome in the Last Sixty Days of Life of People Receiving Palliative Care: A National Longitudinal Consecutive Cohort Study

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Journal of Palliative Medicine


Background: People with life-limiting illnesses experience a range of distressing symptoms. Appetite-related symptoms are common, but studies have found varied prevalence and the distress caused has had limited quantification. Objectives: To examine the clinicodemographic factors and trajectory of appetite-related distress in the last 60 days of life. Design/Setting/Subjects: Consecutive cohort of 109,385 patients (359,038 data points) using specialist palliative care services in the Australian Palliative Care Outcomes Collaboration (PCOC). Measurements: Patient-reported appetite-related distress using the PCOC Symptom Assessment Scale. Results: Diagnoses included cancer (75%), end-stage organ failure (11%), neurodegenerative disease (4%), dementia (3%), and other noncancer (7%). Fifty-eight percent reported some degree of appetite-related distress at least once in the last 60 days of life. Daily mean distress scores did not vary greatly by diagnosis and the distributions of symptom severity were not linked with performance status. There was a sharp decline in mean distress for all diagnostic groups around 7-10 days before death. Moderate to severe distress was associated with nausea-, bowel-, pain-, and breathing-related distress, controlling for key baseline factors. Conclusion: Appetite-related distress is prevalent and burdensome in the 60 days before death and is strongly associated with distress from other cardinal symptoms.

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