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Cancer Physicians Often Do Not Take Part in Bereavement

A third rarely or never do; terminally ill patients frequently don't discuss hospice with doctors

FRIDAY, May 29 (HealthDay News) -- Many cancer physicians do not routinely participate in the bereavement process after patients die, and terminally ill lung cancer patients often have not discussed hospice with their health care providers, according to a pair of studies in the May 25 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

In one study, Nicole G. Chau, M.D., of the University of Toronto, and colleagues surveyed 756 Canadian medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and palliative care specialists on their bereavement practices when a patient dies. Overall, 33.3 percent of respondents said that they "usually or always" make a telephone call of condolence, send a card, or attend the patient's funeral. Another 30.5 percent said they perform at least one of the practices "sometimes", while 36.2 percent said they "rarely or never" practice them. The authors note that palliative care specialists were most likely to participate in bereavement.

In the other study, Haiden A. Huskamp, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues used data on 1,517 patients with stage IV lung cancer to determine whether the patients had discussed hospice with a physician or health care professional by four to seven months after diagnosis. Overall, only 53 percent of patients had a hospice discussion, with patients who expected to live less than two years more likely to have had the discussion than those who expected to live longer.

"Increased communication with physicians could address patients' lack of awareness about hospice and misunderstandings about prognosis," Huskamp and colleagues conclude.

Abstract - Chau
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Abstract - Huskamp
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