In a survey on the attitudes and practices of nearly 900 oncologists towards palliative care for dying patients and patients with advanced cancer, almost all (92%) agreed that they should receive end-of-life support as well as anti-tumour therapy. Less than half, however, routinely co-ordinate the care of cancer patients at all stages of their disease or collaborate with support teams and social workers. The results of the survey with data from 64 countries (including USA, Australia, Africa, and Asia) was conducted by the European Society for Medical Oncology and were presented today (20 October 2002) at its Congress in Nice.
"There is a big gulf between what people say and what they do," said Dr Nathan Cherny from Shaare Zedek Medical Centre in Jerusalem, Israel, who co-ordinated the survey. "Although there is general recognition that palliative care is important, many oncologists do not see this as an integral part of their role." ESMO also wanted to find out what the barriers might be to becoming involved with their patients' psychological and social issues.
Patients nearing the end of their life due to cancer require extra care for problems such as pain and digestive disorders, anxiety and depression, and complications following chemotherapy. The family members should also be involved with their care and it may be appropriate for the patient to be admitted to a hospice.
There was, however, a significant minority (15%) of medical oncologists who have negative views of the value of palliative care, partly because they did not believe they were sufficiently traine
Contact: Gracemarie Bricalli
European Society for Medical Oncology