Implementation of early palliative care (EPC) into daily oncology practice remains difficult. One of the barriers preventing oncologists from starting EPC is open communication about the palliative setting. The aim of this study was to investigate the relevance of this communication barrier.Patients and Methods
In this cross-sectional multicenter study, 106 patients with advanced thoracic cancer were issued a questionnaire to survey 3 dimensions of interest: illness understanding, observation of conversation regarding prognosis and end-of-life (EoL) care, and information preferences of the patients.Results
Only 45% of subjects were aware that their treatment was not curative. When comparing presumed treatment goals between patients who were aware that their treatment could not cure them and patients likely to think that their treatment could cure them, 39% of the former chose quality of life versus 9% of the latter, whereas 36% of the former chose cure versus 13% of the latter (χ2 = 17.7, P = .001). Seventy-five percent never had a conversation about EoL care. More than 50% found a discussion about prognosis and EoL care to be very important.Conclusion
This study reveals the existence of a communication barrier and underlines the importance of sustained emphasis with regard to the palliative intent of the treatment. Patients who are aware that they could not be cured were more aware of the primary goal of their treatment, namely quality of life. Most patients did not discuss prognosis and EoL care despite their wish for such a communication.Micro-Abstract
Communication about the palliative setting in advanced cancer remains a barrier: only 45% of patients know they cannot be cured. Nevertheless, this knowledge seems important, as it goes along with awareness of the primary goal of palliative treatment. Treating oncologists need to know that it is beneficial to make patients aware of the fact that treatment cannot cure them.