Palliative radiotherapy for advanced malignancies in a changing oncologic landscape: guiding principles and practice implementation
Radiotherapy can provide safe, cost-effective, efficient palliation of various symptoms of advanced cancer with minimal side effects. Radiotherapy can palliate pain related to bone metastases and growing visceral metastases or primary cancers, neurologic symptoms related to brain and spine metastases, other symptoms including cough and dyspnea from advanced cancers in the lung, bleeding from various internal and external tumors, and obstructive symptoms. Palliative radiotherapy should be offered in the context of a multidisciplinary oncology team including medical oncologists, palliative care clinicians and various surgical and interventional subspecialists. The prescription of radiotherapy should balance the convenience and fewer side effects associated with short, hypofractionated courses of radiotherapy with the potential greater durability associated with longer courses of radiotherapy in patients with more prolonged life expectancies. The judicious use of advanced techniques in radiotherapy, including intensity-modulated radiotherapy and stereotactic radiotherapy (SRT), may be warranted in select patients, and they can potentially improve symptom control and durability but are associated with increased technical and economic costs.