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Healthcare practitioners should provide more advice about palliative care, study finds

Researchers in Belgium carried out a cross-sectional study regarding the amount of information and advice given to cancer patients using palliative care.

Researchers in Belgium carried out a cross-sectional study regarding the amount of information and advice given to cancer patients using palliative care


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Most people with cancer receive the information they require about the disease and the side effects of treatments, however far fewer receive information about palliative care, even when most people want such dialogue to occur, according to research.

The findings suggest healthcare practitioners should be more assiduous in their duty to provide details and opportunities for discussion about end of life care, even at the start of their care journey rather than only when the patient may be terminally ill.

Researchers from Ghent, Belgium, conducted a cross-sectional survey of adult patients living with cancer who were consulting the University Hospital in Ghent between 1 March and 30 June 2014. Participants completed several questionnaires recording sociodemographic information, the symptoms that would have prompted the patient to request information and their needs specific to palliative or end of life care, and euthanasia.

Questionnaires were completed by 620 people, and for 611 of the cases the corresponding clinician also completed a questionnaire detailing their perspective on the patient’s diagnosis and prognosis.

Only one tenth of the sample received information about palliative care and euthanasia (which is legal in Belgium), and differences in gender or age did not bear any significance. An expected prognosis of six months or less was associated with increased likelihood of receiving information about palliative and end of life care, as were the symptoms of pain, fatigue, or nausea.


Beernaert K, Haverbeke C, Van Belle S et al (2018) Information needs about palliative care and euthanasia: a survey of patients in different phases of their cancer trajectory. Patient Education and Counseling. 101, 1, 132-138.

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