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Signs, Symptoms, and Characteristics Associated With End of Life in People With a Hematologic Malignancy: A Review of the Literature

Elise Button
Raymond Chan
Shirley Chambers
Jason Butler
Patsy Yates
ONF 2016, 43(5), E178-E187 DOI: 10.1188/16.ONF.E178-E187

Problem Identification: Identifying people with hematologic cancer who are at risk of deteriorating and dying is essential to enable open, honest discussions, leading to appropriate decision making and effective end-of-life care.

Literature Search: PubMed, CINAHL®, PsycINFO, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials were searched from January 2005 to December 2015 for descriptive observational studies.

Data Evaluation: Critique of the studies was guided by the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme Cohort Study Checklist.

Synthesis: Twelve studies were included. The majority of studies (n = 8) sampled patients from palliative populations, and most were retrospective (n = 11). A number of signs, symptoms, and characteristics associated with end of life in people with a hematolgic malignancy were identified, including pain, hematopoietic dysfunction, dyspnea, and reduced oral intake.

Conclusions: The studies described a clinical scenario of deterioration, largely in a palliative population. Findings indicate that people with a hematologic malignancy share certain clinical signs of deterioration with other populations and receive a high level of medical interventions at the end of life.

Implications for Practice: Nurses are well positioned to identify many of the signs, symptoms, and characteristics found in this review and can play a key role in identifying when a person is nearing the end of life.

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