Clinician Perspectives on Palliative Care for People with Hepatocellular Carcinoma: Facilitators of and Barriers to Referral

Cancers (Basel). 2023 Jul 14;15(14):3617. doi: 10.3390/cancers15143617.


(1) Background: Little is known about facilitators of and barriers to palliative care referral for people with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The objective of this study is to identify facilitators and barriers of palliative care referral described by HCC-treating clinicians. (2) Methods: Semi-structured interviews (n = 16) were conducted with HCC-treating clinicians at two centers, focusing on referral patterns, palliative care needs, and disease course. A code book was created, axial coding was used to code all interviews, and selective coding was used to identify facilitators and barriers of palliative care referral. (3) Results: Facilitators included helpfulness at times of transition; help with management of certain symptoms; provision of psychosocial support; and positive experiences with referral. Barriers included feasibility concerns; lack of information about palliative care and who is appropriate; lack of symptoms requiring outside referral; and concerns that palliative care conveys loss of hope. (4) Conclusions: Participants noted the helpfulness of palliative care at specific points in the disease trajectory and cited barriers related to feasibility, lack of need, lack of awareness, and loss of hope. The results show actionable issues that can be addressed in future research to leverage the benefits of and overcome the barriers to palliative care for people with HCC.

Keywords: hepatocellular carcinoma; palliative care; qualitative research; supportive oncology.