Lung cancer physicians' referral practices for palliative care consultation

C. B. Smith, J. E. Nelson, A. R. Berman, C. A. Powell, J. Fleischman, J. Salazar-schicchi, J. P. Wisnivesky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Background: Integration of palliative care with standard oncologic care improves quality of life and survival of lung cancer patients. We surveyed physicians to identify factors influencing their decisions for referral to palliative care. Methods: We provided a self-administered questionnaire to physicians caring for lung cancer patients at five medical centers. The questionnaire asked about practices and views with respect to palliative care referral. We used multiple regression analysis to identify predictors of low referral rates (<25%). Results: Of 155 physicians who returned survey responses, 75 (48%) reported referring <25% of patients for palliative care consultation. Multivariate analysis, controlling for provider characteristics, found that low referral rates were associated with physicians' concerns that palliative care referral would alarm patients and families [odds ratio (OR) 0.45, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.21-0.98], while the belief that palliative care specialists have more time to discuss complex issues (OR 3.07, 95% CI 1.56-6.02) was associated with higher rates of referral. Conclusions: Although palliative care consultation is increasingly available and recommended throughout the trajectory of lung cancer, our data indicate it is underutilized. Understanding factors influencing decisions to refer can be used to improve integration of palliative care as part of lung cancer management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-387
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012


  • Lung cancer
  • Palliative care
  • Physician
  • Survey


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