Knowledge and utilization of palliative radiotherapy by pediatric oncologists

T.L. Tucker, R.S. Samant, E.J. Fitzgibbon


ABSTRACT Background and Purpose Palliative radiotherapy (prt) is a routine part of oncology care in adult patients, but it is used much less frequently among children with incurable cancer. We surveyed Canadian pediatric oncologists to learn about their knowledge and use of prt and to identify potential barriers to referral. Methods A 13-item questionnaire assessing prt knowledge and utilization was sent to 80 Canadian pediatric oncologists. Results The survey completion rate was 80%, with most respondents being providers of palliative care for children and making referrals for prt. Although 62% had received training in radiation oncology, only 28% had received formal palliative care training. Respondents with palliative care training were found to be significantly more knowledgeable about prt and were more likely to refer children for prt (p < 0.01). Only 59% of respondents thought that they had adequate knowledge about the indications for prt. A positive correlation was found between knowledge about the indications for prt and referral for treatment (p < 0.01). Among survey respondents, 51% believed that prt was underutilized, and the perceived barriers to prt referral included patient or family reluctance, distance to the cancer centre, belief that prt has little impact on quality of life, and concerns about toxicity. Conclusions Palliative radiotherapy is considered to be underutilized among children. This situation appears to be related, in part, to inadequate knowledge and training among pediatric oncologists, suggesting that more emphasis needs to be placed on pediatric palliative care education.

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ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)