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The role of general surgery in the palliative care of patients with cancer 

The role of general surgery in the palliative care of patients with cancer
The role of general surgery in the palliative care of patients with cancer

Brian Badgwell

and Robert S. Krouse

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date: 16 May 2022

Palliative surgery is defined as surgical intervention in patients with incurable malignancy for symptoms attributable to their cancer. A considerable percentage of consultations at major cancer centres are palliative in nature, resulting in 13-21% of all operations meeting the criteria for palliative surgery. Common symptom groups for evaluation include gastrointestinal obstruction, wound problems/infections, gastrointestinal bleeding, and obstructive jaundice. This chapter outlines the indications, treatment options, and outcomes for these diagnoses and a few less common indications for surgical consultation. Clinical trials are infrequent in this population and there is a paucity of prospective studies with quality of life outcomes measures. Most studies focus on morbidity and mortality as palliative surgery has long been recognized as having increased risk for complications, although recent studies suggest an improvement in this regard. The benefits of palliative surgery should focus on quality of life, symptom control, and symptom prevention. Future studies will be needed to determine the definitions of success and hopefully include patient-reported outcomes assessment.

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