Knowledge, beliefs, and misconceptions about palliative care among older adults with cancer

J Geriatr Oncol. 2023 Jan;14(1):101378. doi: 10.1016/j.jgo.2022.09.007. Epub 2022 Sep 29.


Introduction: Older adults with cancer have high symptom burden and unmet needs and may benefit from palliative care (PC). However, little is known about their knowledge and understanding of PC. This study examined the knowledge, beliefs, and misconceptions about PC in older adults with cancer in the United States.

Materials and methods: We used data from National Cancer Institute's 2018 wave of the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS). A total of 370 individuals aged 65 and older with a diagnosis of cancer were included in this study. The outcomes included PC knowledge, goals, and misconceptions. The main predictors included general health status, chronic conditions, functional limitations, and types of cancer.

Results: About two thirds of the sample (65.31%) did not have any knowledge of PC. Among those who had some knowledge, they had good understanding of PC goals, but also had many misconceptions about PC. Multiple regression analysis showed that older age (p < .001), racial minority (p = .021), and lower education (p = .001) was associated with lacking knowledge of PC. Individuals with some functional limitations tended to have better understanding and fewer misconceptions of PC.

Discussion: The knowledge about PC is low in older adults with cancer in the US. Educational interventions need to be implemented to increase knowledge and reduce the misconceptions about PC in this population. Increasing knowledge of PC may ultimately lead to increased access to PC and improve the quality of life in this population.

Keywords: Beliefs; Education; Knowledge; Misconceptions; Older adults with cancer; PC.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease
  • Educational Status
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms*
  • Palliative Care*
  • Quality of Life
  • United States