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.
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.
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.