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Invited Commentary
November 2015

Critical Care Utilization for Those With Cancer: How Much Is Enough?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Emergency Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston
JAMA Oncol. 2015;1(8):1085-1086. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.2854

Intensive care units (ICUs) provide specialized care that can be of high value to those with cancer who experience life-threatening complications of the disease or its treatment. The cost of providing intensive care is high, and unless the societal resources devoted to health care are limitless, we must continually decide how to best allocate resources to those who are likely to benefit.

While at one time, the diagnosis of cancer meant to clinicians that ICU admissions were largely futile, research suggests that, given appropriate patient selection, the benefits of critical care can be similar for those with and without a cancer diagnosis.1 While intensive care can provide health benefits, particularly to those with reversible forms of organ failure, ICU care involves the possibility, and indeed the likelihood, of physical pain and emotional suffering. The provision of high-quality critical care requires consideration of both the likelihoods of such benefits and harms.