Purpose: Despite clear benefits of early integration of palliative care (PC) and oncology, concerns remain about negative perceptions of PC. Our aim was to explore current knowledge and perceptions of PC in cancer patients. Methods: We conducted a prospective, cross-sectional survey. A 16-item questionnaire was distributed to all cancer patients (N = 103) upon admission to the oncology ward of an Australian tertiary academic hospital. Chi-squared test was used to examine for significant factors related to patients’ perceptions. Results: Ninety-six patients (93%) completed the questionnaire; 76% had metastatic cancer. We explored the following domains:Experience and knowledge: 76% had heard of PC; 21% had received PC. Self-rated PC knowledge was varied. Forty-five percent believed that PC was only associated with EOLC; those more likely to disagree had received PC services (p = 0.039).Integration of PC and oncology: Majority believed that they could receive oncology care (86%) and anti-cancer treatment (81%) whilst receiving PC. Those who had heard of PC and with better self-rated knowledge were more likely to believe that they could receive concurrent anti-cancer treatment (p = 0.005, p = 0.045, respectively).Feelings: 77% felt comforted with PC involvement; this was significantly associated with older age (p = 0.047) and understanding that oncology (p < 0.005) and anti-cancer treatment (p = 0.013) could continue. However, some felt frightened (40%) and hopeless (29%) about referral to PC. Fifty percent felt more comfortable with referral to ‘supportive care’ services (versus PC). Conclusions: Our survey demonstrates reasonable understanding and relatively positive feelings about PC, associated with experience and knowledge. Nonetheless, there is ongoing need for better patient and public education about PC.
- Palliative care