Patterns of Palliative Care Beliefs Among Adults in the U.S. Analysis of a National Cancer Database

Brian T. Cheng*, Tenzin Wangmo, Joshua M. Hauser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Palliative care (PC) is associated with increased quality of life for individuals with life-limiting illnesses. Despite growing recognition of the need for public advocacy and involvement, data on public perception of PC are limited. We sought to examine patterns of beliefs, sociodemographic differences, and the impact of information source on perceptions of PC. Measures and Intervention: Data were analyzed from the 2018 Health Information National Trends Survey, a representative sample of public knowledge on cancer-related information. Prevalence of perceptions was estimated among adults who self-identified as knowledgeable about PC; multivariable logistic regression invoking stepwise variable selection was used to determine associations with perceptions. Outcomes: Overall, 42.5% automatically thought of death when thinking about PC, and 31.7% equate PC with hospice care. Lower proportions perceived PC as incompatible with curative medical therapy: 15.1% believed PC means giving up, and 14.5% believed PC requires the discontinuation of other treatments. Perceptions varied by age, race, education attainment, income, and marital status. In adjusted models, source of PC information was not related to differences in PC perception: PC is giving up (P ≥ 0.28), requirement to stop curative therapy (P ≥ 0.07), and equation with hospice care (P ≥ 0.29). Conclusions: Six in every 10 American adults knowledgeable about PC have at least one documented misperception, with differential beliefs by sociodemographic groups. Source of information had little impact on PC beliefs. These findings may help focus future measures to educate the public about the role of PC in health care and address gaps in knowledge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1056-1067
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Palliative care
  • beliefs
  • epidemiology
  • information sharing
  • knowledge
  • perceptions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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