(HealthDay News) — Three-quarters of young or middle-aged Americans with terminal cancer receive aggressive treatment during the last month of their lives, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, held in Chicago.
Ronald Chen, MD, MPH, an associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and colleagues reviewed claims data for more than 28,000 terminally ill cancer patients younger than 65 who died between 2007 and 2014. The patients lived across 14 different states, and had been diagnosed with advanced lung, colorectal, breast, pancreatic, or prostate cancer. The researchers defined aggressive care as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hospital/emergency room treatment, admission to an intensive care unit (ICU), or dying in a hospital.
The investigators found that between 71 and 76% of patients received some form of aggressive care at the end of life, depending on their type of cancer. Chemotherapy use ranged from 24 to 33%; rates of radiation therapy ranged between 6 and 21%; between 25 and 31% of patients underwent an invasive procedure such as a biopsy or surgery; and about 16 to 21% of patients were admitted to the ICU. One-third died in a hospital, while fewer than 1 in 5 used hospice care.
“Additional efforts are critically needed to improve end-of-life care for patients with terminal disease, to ensure that the care provided meets the goals and preferences of patients and their families,” Chen told HealthDay.