The effects of early palliative care differ depending on patients’ age and gender, found a recent study.1 Researchers analyzed data on 350 patients with advanced lung cancer and non-colorectal gastrointestinal cancer. Patients received an early palliative care intervention integrated with oncology care, or usual oncology care alone, and were evaluated at 24 weeks. Key findings include:

• younger patients with lung cancer in the palliative care group reported increased use of active coping and decreased use of avoidant coping;

• the effects of early palliative care on these outcomes were not significant for older patients;

• male patients with lung cancer in the early palliative care group reported better quality of life and lower depression scores. The effect of palliative care on these outcomes was not significant for female patients.

Several studies have shown that patients with access to palliative care at the time of diagnosis of a serious illness live longer and have a better quality of life.

“They also tend to be protected from burdensome and avoidable hospital admissions and emergency room visits,” says Dana Lustbader, MD, FAAHPM, chair of the department of palliative medicine at ProHEALTH in Lake Success, NY. This is due to better treatment of their distressing symptoms and around-the-clock availability of providers.

“As we learn more about how to best deliver palliative care, it will be important to study how individual characteristics, demographics, faith backgrounds, culture, and communities experience these services,” says Lustbader.

ProHEALTH’s palliative care team always asks patients and loved ones, “What matters most to you?” and “What are you worried about most right now?”

The answers to these two questions allow the team to best address what matters most in the moment.

“All too often, healthcare providers presume to know what patients want, and we’re often wrong,” says Lustbader.


1. Nipp RD, El-Jawahri A, Traeger L, et al. Differential effects of early palliative care based on the age and sex of patients with advanced cancer from a randomized controlled trial. Palliat Med 2018; 32(4): 757-766.


• Dana Lustbader, MD, FAAHPM, Chair, Department of Palliative Medicine, ProHEALTH, Lake Success, NY/Professor of Medicine, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine. Phone: (516) 622-2923. Email: