Most patients with cancer who are approaching the end of their lives prefer supportive care that minimizes symptoms and their days in the hospital. But the care they actually receive doesn't reflect those preferences, according to a new study by the Dartmouth Atlas Project. Researchers found that just as many patients were likely to receive life-sustaining treatments, such as intubation, a feeding tube or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, in the final month of life, or to undergo chemotherapy during the last two weeks of life, in 2010 as in 2003-2007.
"Our research continues to find that patients with advanced cancer are often receiving aggressive care until their final days, when we know that most patients would prefer care directed toward a better quality of life through hospice and palliative services. The increase in patients admitted to hospice care only days before death suggests that hospice services are often provided too late to provide much benefit." said David C. Goodman, M.D., co-principal investigator for the Dartmouth Atlas Project, in the study announcement. "Fuller discussions with patients who have advanced cancer on their prognosis and options for care can lead to a better quality of life than many receive today." Study