Defining the radiation oncologist’s role in palliative care and radiotherapy
Radiation oncologists play an important role in the palliative care of advanced cancer patients. The article discusses the various clinical indications of palliative radiation therapy, which include the control of bone pain, acute treatment of cord compression, the control of thoracic and gastrointestinal symptoms. The importance of survival estimates for individualization of radiation therapy regime is elaborated. Besides prescription of radiation treatment, radiation oncologists should also function as primary palliative care providers by assessing and initial management of symptoms and other sources of distress, making prompt referrals to specialists for complex symptom management and contributing to the multidisciplinary palliative care team. Additionally, communication skills, including prognostic disclosure and goals of care discussions, should also be a core competency of radiation oncologists.