National Survey of Perspectives of Palliative Radiation Therapy: Role, Barriers, and Needs

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Abstract

Purpose:

Despite growth of palliative care programs and evidence on the effectiveness of radiotherapy in palliating cancer symptoms, radiotherapy is probably underused in this setting. Radiation and medical oncologists and palliative medicine specialists were surveyed regarding the perceived role of palliative radiotherapy and barriers to its use.

Methods:

The survey was sent electronically to all physician members of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) and the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM) and a random sample of American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) members, with known e-mail addresses.

Results:

Response rates were 27%, 14% and 26% for ASTRO, ASCO, and AAHPM respondents, respectively. Although most felt radiotherapy is an effective and important option for palliation of some common cancer symptoms, referrals for such therapy may be declining. Most agreed that radiation oncologists should be more involved in palliative care; however, multiple barriers were identified, such as poor reimbursement, emotional burden of care, insufficient training/knowledge, and the sense of unwillingness of others to share delivery of such services.

Conclusions:

Although multiple barriers limit optimal integration, most agree that there should be greater national and professional society efforts to promote the advancement of radiation oncology in the area of palliative care.

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