Attitudes of medical oncologists toward palliative care for patients with advanced and incurable cancer

Report on a survey by the European Society of Medical Oncology taskforce on palliative and supportive care

Authors

  • Nathan I. Cherny M.B.B.S.,

    Corresponding author
    1. Medical Oncology and Palliative Medicine Service, Department of Oncology, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel
    • Medical Oncology and Palliative Medicine Service, Department of Oncology, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel,
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    • Fax: (011) 972 26666731

    • Both authors are members of the European Society of Medical Oncology Taskforce on Palliative and Supportive Care.

  • Raphael Catane M.D.

    1. Sheba Medical Center, Tel Aviv University Medical School, Tel Aviv, Israel
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    • Both authors are members of the European Society of Medical Oncology Taskforce on Palliative and Supportive Care.


  • The following members of the European Society of Medical Oncology Taskforce on Palliative and Supportive Care participated in this study: Maurizio Tonato (Policlinico Divisione Oncologia Medica, Perugia, Italy); K. Winand Lange (Johanniter–Krankenhaus Rheinhausen, Duisburg, Germany); Herbert Kappauf (Institut für Medizinische Onkologie, Nürnberg, Germany); Alexandru–Calin Grigorescu (Oncologic Institute of Bucharest, Bucarest, Romania); Sergei Tjulandin (Cancer Research Center, Moscow, Russia); Piotr Siedlecki (Marie Skledowska–Curie Institute Cancer Center, Warszawa, Poland); Marco Maltoni (Department of Medical Oncology, Pierantoni Hospital, Forlfi, Italy); Marianne Kloke (Universitätsklinikum Essen, Essen, Germany); Kaija Holli (Department of Oncology, University Hospital, Tampere, Finland); Vladimir Bryuzgin (Cancer Research Center, Moscow, Russia); Dirk Schrijvers (Middelheim Hospital, Antwerp, Belgium); Özgür Özyilkan (Baskent University Faculty of Medicine, Ankara, Turkey); Martin Chasen (Richard Eek Sandton Oncology Centre, Pretoria, South Africa); Maria Wagnerova (University Teaching Hospital, Kosice, Slovak Republic); Janos Szanto (Debrecen Medical University, Debrecen, Hungary); and Joao Oliveira (Istituto Portugues de Oncologia, Losboa Codex, Portugal).

Abstract

BACKGROUND AND METHODS

In part of a quality improvement program, the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) surveyed its membership regarding their involvement in and attitudes toward the palliative care (PC) of patients with advanced cancer.

RESULTS

Of 895 members who responded, 82.5% were European and 12.1% were American. Sixty-nine percent of respondents reported that patients with advanced cancer constituted a major proportion of their practice; for 22% of respondents, patients with advanced cancer constituted most of their practice. Only a minority of respondents collaborated often with a PC care specialist (35%), a palliative home care service (38%), an in-patient hospice (26%), or a psychologist (33%). In response to questions regarding specific involvement in PC clinical tasks, respondents were involved more commonly in treating physical symptoms, such as pain (93%), fatigue (84%), and nausea/emesis (84%), than in managing psychological symptoms and end-of-life care issues, such as depression/anxiety (65%), existential distress (29%), or delirium (12%). Forty-three percent of respondents reported that they directly administered end-of-life care often, and 74% reported that they derived satisfaction from their involvement in end-of-life care. Overall, 88.4% of respondents endorsed the belief that medical oncologists should coordinate the end-of-life care for their patients, but a substantial minority (42%) felt that they were trained inadequately for this task. Positive attitudes toward PC were correlated highly with the degree of direct involvement in PC practice. Practitioners in private practice or teaching hospitals had substantially more positive attitudes regarding PC compared with physicians based in comprehensive cancer centers (P < 0.05). Although most of the responding medical oncologists expressed positive views regarding their involvement in the PC of patients with advanced cancer and dying patients, 15% of respondents had pervasively negative views.

CONCLUSIONS

Most ESMO oncologists recognize the importance of PC and supportive care for patients with advanced cancer. Despite this, many are prepared inadequately for these tasks, and actual participation levels commonly are suboptimal. Cancer 2003. © 2003 American Cancer Society.

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