Residents' management of the symptoms associated with terminal cancer.

P. A. Sloan, M. B. Donnelly, R. W. Schwartz, D. A. Sloan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The principal aim of palliative care is to bring symptomatic relief to patients with progressive disease. Residents graduating from a university general surgery training program should be competent to manage common symptoms associated with advanced cancer. This study used performance-based testing to evaluate the skills of resident physicians in managing common symptoms of a patient with advanced cancer. Thirty-three resident physicians (PGY 1 to 6) were presented with four clinical symptoms of a patient with advanced cancer: (1) nausea and vomiting associated with regular morphine use; (2) lack of appetite in the last weeks of life of a terminally ill patient; (3) constipation associated with codeine analgesia; and (4) dyspnea associated with diffuse lung metastases. The management plan for the symptom problems was evaluated by using a predefined checklist. A significant number of residents showed deficits in the management of common symptoms of advanced cancer. Scheduled dosing of antiemetics was infrequently prescribed for opioid-related nausea and vomiting. Most physicians inappropriately managed lack of appetite by using forced feeding. Opioids were infrequently used in the management of terminal dyspnea. The absence of difference in scores between junior and senior residents suggests that adequate management of the symptoms of terminal cancer is not being effectively taught in postgraduate training programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-15
Number of pages11
JournalThe Hospice journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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