A Descriptive Analysis of End-of-Life Conversations With Long-Term Glioblastoma Survivors

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Early, high-quality serious illness (SI) conversations are critical for patients with glioblastoma (GBM) but are often mistimed or mishandled.


To describe the prevalence, timing, and quality of documented SI conversations and evaluate their focus on patient goals/priorities.


Thirty-three patients with GBM enrolled in the control group of a randomized controlled trial of a communication intervention and were followed for 2 years or until death. At baseline, all patients answered a validated question about preferences for life-extending versus comfort-focused care and completed a Life Priorities Survey about their goals/priorities. In this secondary analysis, retrospective chart review was performed for 18 patients with GBM who died. Documented SI conversations were systematically identified and evaluated using a codebook reflecting 4 domains: prognosis, goals/priorities, end-of-life planning, and life-sustaining treatments. Patient goals/priorities were compared to documentation.


At baseline, 16 of 24 patients preferred life-extending care. In the Life Priorities Survey, goals/priorities most frequently ranked among the top 3 were “Live as long as possible,” “Be mentally aware,” “Provide support for family,” “Be independent,” and “Be at peace.” Fifteen of 18 patients had at least 1 documented SI conversation (range: 1-4). Median timing of the first documented SI conversation was 84 days before death (range: 29-231; interquartile range: 46-119). Fifteen patients had documentation about end-of-life planning, with “hospice” and “palliative care” most frequently documented. Five of 18 patients had documentation about their goals.


Patients with GBM had multiple goals/priorities with potential treatment implications, but documentation showed SI conversations occurred relatively late and infrequently reflected patient goals/priorities.

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