Palliative care prevents or relieves the symptoms caused by life-threatening medical conditions. Previous surveys have shown both underuse and lack of availability of these services for children with cancer throughout North America. We sought to investigate the current practices and resources surrounding palliative and end-of-life care among participating institutions of the Children's Oncology Group (COG).
A survey regarding practices and resources was developed by the COG palliative care subcommittee and was sent to all 232 institutions to complete for the calendar year 2005.
The survey was completed by 81% of the institutions. Per institution, there were a mean of 64.6 newly diagnosed patients and 17.7 patients experiencing relapse. A palliative care team was available in 58% of institutions, a pain service in 90%, a hospice in 60%, a psychosocial support team in 80%, and a bereavement program in 59%. Complementary and alternative medicine was available in 39% of institutions and in 95% of the COG institution's community. Most services, even when available, were not well used by patients.
Despite the well-established benefit of pediatric palliative care, it is only offered in 58% of COG institutions caring for children with cancer. In an era where the benefit of palliative care has been clearly established, this number should approach 100%. Efforts should be directed toward understanding barriers to provision of such services, so that they are available and well used at all childhood cancer centers.