Publication Date



Quality of Life Research


PURPOSE: Despite the benefits of palliative care (PC) in pancreatic cancer, little is known about patients who access PC. This observational study examines the characteristics of patients with pancreatic cancer at their first episode of PC.

METHODS: First-time, specialist PC episodes captured through the Palliative Care Outcomes Collaboration (PCOC), in Victoria, Australia between 2014 and 2020, for pancreatic cancer, were identified. Multivariable logistic regression analyses examined the impact of patient- and service-level characteristics on symptom burden (measured through patient-reported outcome measures and clinician-rated scores) at first PC episode.

RESULTS: Of 2890 eligible episodes, 45% began when the patient was deteriorating and 32% ended in death. High fatigue and appetite-related distress were most common. Generally, increasing age, higher performance status and more recent year of diagnosis predicted lower symptom burden. No significant differences were noted between symptom burden of regional/remote versus major city dwellers; however, only 11% of episodes recorded the patient as a regional/remote resident. A greater proportion of first episodes for non-English-speaking patients began when the patient was unstable, deteriorating or terminal, ended in death and were more likely to be associated with high family/carer problems. Community PC setting predicted high symptom burden, with the exception of pain.

CONCLUSION: A large proportion of first-time specialist PC episodes in pancreatic cancer begin at a deteriorating phase and end in death, suggesting late access to PC. Timely referrals to community-based specialist PC, access in regional/remote areas, as well as development of culturally diverse support systems require further investigation.


Palliative care, Pancreatic cancer, Problem severity, Symptom distress



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