Patients with advanced cancer experienced significant reductions in health care costs upon receiving palliative care, and may benefit more the earlier a palliative care consult is given, according to a study presented at the 2017 Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology Symposium in California.1

Previous studies have shown that patients with advanced cancer may experience some financial relief integrating palliative care with standard oncologic care, but these results were coincidental findings and have not yet been fully explored.

For this matched case-control study, a total of 2576 patients with advanced lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers were enrolled. Patients who received a palliative care consultation were matched with patients who did not, and their costs before and after the consultation were evaluated in order to assess the economic effect of the palliative care consultation. Costs such as inpatient, outpatient, home health care, hospice, and medical equipment were considered for the study.

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The health care costs for patients with advanced cancer 30 days prior to receiving the palliative consultation were comparable for both groups; costs were $12,881 and $12,335 for patients who received palliative care consultations and those who did not, respectively.

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One-hundred twenty days after study initiation, patients in the palliative care arm had a total cost of $6,880 compared with $9,604 for patients who did not receive palliative care consultation (28% decrease, P < .001).

Results also showed that patients would experience more relief the earlier they received a palliative care consultation. Patients who received a palliative consultation at least 4 weeks from death decreased costs by $5,362 compared to $975 for patients who received consultations 7 days prior to death.


1. Lebrett WG, Roeland E, Bruggeman A, et al. Economic impact of palliative care among elderly cancer patients. Poster presented at: 2017 Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology Symposium; October 27-28, 2017; San Diego, CA. Abstract 91.