Purpose: To examine the accuracy of survival prediction by palliative radiation oncologists.
Methods and materials: After consultation of cancer patients with metastatic disease for referral of palliative radiotherapy, radiation oncologists estimated the survival of the patients. These were compared with the actual dates of death obtained from the Cancer Death Registry. The time to death from all causes was the outcome. The survival times were measured from the date of the first consultation at the palliative radiotherapy clinics.
Results: Six radiation oncologists provided estimates for 739 patients. Of the 739 patients, 396 were men and 343 were women (median age, 69 years). The median survival of all patients was 15.9 weeks. The mean difference between the actual survival (AS) and the clinician predicted survival (i.e., actual survival minus clinician predicted survival) was -12.3 weeks (95% confidence interval, -15.0 to -9.5) for the entire population. The mean difference was -21.9 weeks when the actual survival was < or =12 weeks, -19.2 weeks when the AS was 13-26 weeks, -9.7 weeks when the AS was 27-52 weeks, and +23.0 weeks when the AS was >52 weeks.
Conclusion: In this study, the prediction of survival by radiation oncologists was inaccurate and tended to be overly optimistic.