The Supportive Care Task Force (SCTF) was established within the Medical Oncology Department at the University of L'Aquila in May 2002. The missions of the SCTF were to allow systematic evaluation and treatment of symptoms, to warrant continuity of care in all phases of disease and to provide medical oncology residents with training in the treatment of symptoms. A medical oncologist, two senior residents in medical oncology and a registered nurse comprised the SCTF. A psychiatrist, two neurologists, a dietician, and two physiotherapists served as consultants or on a part-time basis. Four beds in two-bedded rooms inside the Medical Oncology Department were reserved to SCTF. A close integration with the physicians of the Medical Oncology Department was realised. The only criterion to admission was the presence of uncontrolled symptoms. Patients were evaluated and monitored with the visual analogue scale for pain and with the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS). The Palliative Prognostic Score (PaP Score) was employed to assess the prognosis. Non-clinical needs were evaluated with the Need Evaluation Questionnaire (NEQ). Protocols for the treatment of common symptoms were available in written form for consultation by physicians, residents and nurses. From 1 May 2002 to 31 May 2004, we observed 208 patients: 111 women and 97 men. The median age was 64.7 (range 28-90) years. Fifty-four patients (25.9%) were admitted more than once, for a total of 285 admissions. One hundred ninety-nine admissions (69.5%) were for supportive care while 86 admissions (30.5%) were for supportive care and active treatment. The most frequent symptoms were asthenia and anorexia. We registered excellent results regarding the treatment of pain, nausea and dyspnea while psychological symptoms, anorexia and asthenia proved more difficult to treat. Two hundred twenty patients were discharged: 142 (49.8%) home; 76 (26.7%) to the Home Care Service and two (0.7%) to others units of the hospital. Sixty-five (22.8%) died in our unit. © Springer-Verlag 2005.
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