General practitioners and referral for palliative radiotherapy: A population-based survey
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Background and purpose: The suspicion exists that the referral rate for palliative radiotherapy (RT) is too low. RT, especially in a short series, is an essential and established modality within palliative cancer care for localised symptoms. Material and methods: Questionnaires to evaluate the knowledge of palliative RT were sent to the 1100 general practitioners (GP's) in the area of the Comprehensive Cancer Centre South in the Netherlands, covering about 2.6 million inhabitants. Four hundred and ninety-eight questionnaires were evaluated. Results: Forty-six percent of the respondents had cared for patients referred for palliative RT in the last two years. Knowledge about the effects of palliative RT on bone metastases and spinal cord compression was good but about other palliative indications it was moderate to poor. Determinants of the actual referral for palliative RT were mainly patient related. GPs considered their own knowledge to be poor with only 10% reporting previous RT education. Conclusions: It is absolutely necessary to inform GPs about the possibility of short series of palliative irradiation in order to improve their information for symptomatic cancer patients about all possibilities for palliative treatment.