Palliative radiation oncology programs: design, build, succeed!

Candice Johnstone


The palliation of symptoms caused by advanced cancer is one of the most common indications for radiation therapy. Radiation therapy is an efficient and effective treatment for the palliation of pain, bleeding, obstruction, compression of nerves or the spinal cord and other local symptoms caused by tumors. The general principles of palliative radiation therapy are to use the shortest course of palliative radiation therapy needed to achieve the desired goal. It can typically be effective in a convenient single treatment (fraction) or over a small number of fractions. Given aging populations and the incidence of advanced cancer, there is increasing need for palliative radiation therapy. Many radiation oncology centers now recognize the unique needs of patients with advanced cancer and have developed palliative radiation oncology programs. This review will highlight key features of these palliative radiation oncology programs and their success in facilitating the treatment of these patients.