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‘Curative’ Treatments And Palliative Care: The Lack Of Consensus

J. Gaertner, A. Knies, F. Nauck, R. Voltz, G. Becker, B. Alt-Epping
Published 2014 · Medicine

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Purpose of review A survey was performed to assess whether authors who report about palliative treatments or palliative care share a common understanding of ‘curative’ treatments. Recent findings Of 107 authors from publications about cancer who used both ‘palliative’ and ‘curative’ in the same abstract, 42 (39%) responded. The majority (n = 24; 57%) understood ‘curative’ treatments as ‘aimed at complete absence of disease for the rest of life’, but 43% (n = 18) did not share this view. For example, 19% (n = 7) stated that the term describes cancer-directed therapy for prolongation of life or even regardless of the aspired goal. Summary In the care for cancer patients, unambiguous terminology is essential for the participatory and interdisciplinary decision-making process. Clinicians, researchers and policy makers should be aware of the difference between curative and disease-modifying therapies. Otherwise, this may be a major source of misunderstandings as disease-modifying therapy may be indicated in the incurable stages of the disease as well. In these palliative situations, it is essential to identify the realistic aim(s) of the therapy: prolongation of life, alleviation of suffering or both.
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