End‑of‑life care for patients with advanced lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Survey among Polish pulmonologists

Beata Brożek, Iwona Damps‑Konstańska, Władysław Pierzchała, Adam Barczyk, David C. Currow, Ewa Jassem, Małgorzata Krajnik

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INTRODUCTION There is evidence that people with nonmalignant disease receive poorer end‑of‑life (EOL) care compared with people with cancer. OBJECTIVES The aim of the study was to assess the selected aspects of symptomatic treatment and communication between physicians and patients diagnosed with either advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or lung cancer. METHODS A questionnaire survey was conducted online among members of the Polish Respiratory Society. RESULTS Properly completed questionnaires were returned by 174 respondents (27.2% of those proved to be contacted by email). In COPD, 32% of respondents always or often used opioids in chronic breathlessness and 18.3% always or often referred patients to a palliative care (PC) specialist. Nearly 80% of the respondents claimed that bedside discussions on EOL issues with people with COPD are essential, although only 20% would always or often initiate them. In people with lung cancer, opioids were routinely used for relief of chronic breathlessness by 80% of physicians; 81.7% referred patients to a PC specialist. More than half of the respondents always or often discussed EOL issues only with the patient’s caregivers or relatives. Younger physicians, those at an earlier stage of their career, those caring for higher numbers of patients with lung cancer, and those who were better acquainted with Polish Respiratory Society recommendations for PC in chronic lung diseases seemed to provide better EOL care for COPD patients. CONCLUSIONS Patients with COPD, as compared with patients with lung cancer, were less frequently treated with opioids to relieve chronic breathlessness or referred for a PC consultation. Discussing the EOL issues with a patient was generally found challenging by physicians, and most often pursued with caregivers instead. The COPD recommendations on PC may prove helpful in providing better EOL care by pulmonologists.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-252
Number of pages11
JournalPolish Archives of Internal Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes

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OPEN ACCESS This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms
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  • Advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Breathlessness
  • End‑of‑life communication
  • Opioids
  • Palliative care


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