Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Earlier end of life care discussions are linked to less aggressive care in final days of life, study shows

Date:
November 13, 2012
Source:
American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)
Summary:
A large population- and health systems-based prospective study reports earlier discussions about end of life (EOL) care preferences are strongly associated with less aggressive care in the last days of life and increased use of hospice care for patients with advanced cancer. The study provides the first-of-its-kind scientific evidence that timing of EOL care discussions affects decisions about EOL care.

A large population- and health systems-based prospective study reports earlier discussions about end of life (EOL) care preferences are strongly associated with less aggressive care in the last days of life and increased use of hospice care for patients with advanced cancer.

Related Articles


The study, published November 13 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, provides the first-of-its-kind scientific evidence that timing of EOL care discussions affects decisions about EOL care.

The findings suggest that initiating EOL care discussions before the last month of life provides the patients opportunity to make decisions regarding their EOL care preferences in a way that late discussions don't seem to do. Patients need time to process the information with their family and make good plans based on that information.

National guidelines recommend that oncologists initiate discussions about EOL care soon after a diagnosis of advanced cancer in order to ensure care aligns with patient goals and wishes. Current guidelines state that conversations should happen "during periods of relative medical stability rather than acute deterioration, and with physicians that know the patient well." In addition, ASCO's own recommendations for patients with advanced cancer include prioritizing discussions related to advanced cancer care preference upon diagnosis. This year ASCO also offered guidance on when oncologists should prioritize palliative and supportive care for patients with advanced cancer who have certain disease characteristics.

"Research has shown that choosing less aggressive care at the end of life offers important benefits for both patients and their caregivers. Patients have a better quality of life in their final days because there is a greater focus on symptom management, and they are more often able to receive care in their homes," said lead author Jennifer W. Mack, MD, MPH, a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Dana-Farber/Children' Hospital Cancer Center. "This is also important because studies have shown that aggressive care is associated with a higher risk of depression among bereaved caregivers of cancer patients."

In the study, investigators identified discussions about hospice and resuscitation from with 1,231 patients (or surrogates of patients who were deceased or too ill to participate) with end-stage lung or colorectal cancer and via review of their medical records. They found that, on average, EOL discussions were initiated 33 days before death and 39 percent of those discussions occurred within the last 30 days.

Nearly half of all the study participants received at least one form of aggressive care, including chemotherapy in the last 14 days of life, intensive care unit (ICU) care in the last 30 days of life, and acute, hospital-based care in the last 30 days of life. However, compared with cases where EOL discussions took place within the last 30 days of life, cases with earlier EOL discussions were associated with less frequent use of aggressive care (34-45 percent vs. 65 percent) and increased use of hospice care (68-77 percent vs. 49 percent).

"Most patients who recognize that their cancer is terminal want to receive less aggressive care at the end of life," said Dr. Mack. However, aggressive care is still common in this setting, in part because discussions about the end of life are often postponed because they are difficult for both physicians and patients. This study also found that 17 percent of patients or surrogates did not recall EOL care discussions even though they were documented in the medical records, suggesting they may not have fully comprehended the content of the discussion.

The authors emphasize that more research is needed to explore how content of EOL care discussions affects patients' comprehension of the information and subsequent decisions made. In addition, the study underscores a need for a national emphasis from ASCO and many other professional and patient groups on advanced cancer care planning in physician education and training programs.

ASCO Perspective: Sandra M. Swain, MD, FACP, ASCO President

"Conversations about treatment options for advanced cancer are extremely difficult for patients, their families and their oncologist. But this study underscores a growing body of evidence that the earlier these conversations take place, the better because they have a real impact on a patient's quality of life in their final days. We need more education for physicians on topics like this and more training on communication skills for discussing prognosis."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jennifer W. Mack, Angel Cronin, Nancy L. Keating, Nathan Taback, Haiden A. Huskamp, Jennifer L. Malin, Craig C. Earle, and Jane C. Weeks. Associations Between End-of-Life Discussion Characteristics and Care Received Near Death: A Prospective Cohort Study. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2012; DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2012.43.6055

Cite This Page:

American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). "Earlier end of life care discussions are linked to less aggressive care in final days of life, study shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121113134220.htm>.
American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). (2012, November 13). Earlier end of life care discussions are linked to less aggressive care in final days of life, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121113134220.htm
American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). "Earlier end of life care discussions are linked to less aggressive care in final days of life, study shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121113134220.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) The World Health Organization said on Friday that millions of doses of two experimental Ebola vaccines could be ready for use in 2015 and five more experimental vaccines would start being tested in March. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) An emergency room doctor who recently returned to the city after treating Ebola patients in West Africa has tested positive for the virus. He's quarantined in a hospital. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Fears Keep Guinea Hospitals Empty

Ebola Fears Keep Guinea Hospitals Empty

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) Fears of Ebola are keeping doctors and patients alike away from hospitals in the West African nation of Guinea. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins