Purpose: A majority of patients enrolled in hospice have advanced cancer. Most of them are burdened by symptoms related to uncontrolled tumor growth. Although palliative radiation therapy (RT) is highly effective, only 1% of hospice patients are ever referred. Commonly cited concerns include high treatment cost, burden of travel for multiple visits, and a perceived reluctance of radiation oncologists to deliver single-fraction RT. Methods: A clinic offering affordable RT to patients in hospice was developed to simplify the intake, reduce cost, and minimize travel to a single visit. The goal was to evaluate, simulate and plan treatment, and treat patients with a single fraction of palliative RT within a 4-hour period. Results: The initial 18-month experience is reported in this Health Information Portability and Accountability Act- compliant report that was approved by the Viriginia Commonwealth University Institutional Review Board. Eight referrals were received from local hospice agencies that had not referred any patients in previous years. A telephone screening process avoided unnecessary travel for two patients who were not candidates for RT. Two additional patients who were evaluated with a same-day computed tomography simulation were not good candidates for RT. Ultimately, four patients were successfully treated with single-fraction palliative RT of 8 Gy. None had to disenroll from hospice. Conclusion: This novel program increased access to palliative RT for patients in hospice who would otherwise not have been referred. The main challenge identified was a need for ongoing educational activities at hospice agencies where staff turnover may be high and understanding about palliative RT can be limited.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Policy