Palliative Chemotherapy Near the End of Life in Oncology Patients

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Abstract

Background:

Although palliative chemotherapy during end-of-life (EOL) care is used to relieve symptoms in patients with metastatic cancer, chemotherapy may lead to more aggressive EOL care. We evaluated the use of and variables associated with chemotherapy at EOL.

Methods:

This study included data from patients who died from advanced cancer and underwent palliative chemotherapy between April 2007 and May 2017 at the Department of Palliative Care of Fudan University, Shanghai Cancer Center. Data were collected from hospital medical records. Univariate and multivariate analyses were conducted to identify the variables that independently predicted the use of palliative chemotherapy.

Results:

Among the 542 patients in the study, 85 (15.7%) underwent palliative chemotherapy during the last month and 28 (5.2%) underwent it during the last 2 weeks of life. Age <59 years (odds ratio [OR] = 1.82, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.51-2.61), performance status <3 (OR = 3.73, 95% CI: 1.46-4.67), and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (OR = 3.88, 95% CI: 3.01-5.34) were independently associated with the use of chemotherapy. The use of palliative chemotherapy during the last year of life differed significantly by patient age (P < .001).

Conclusion:

The observed chemotherapy rates of 15.7% during the last month of life and 5.2% during the last 2 weeks of life are in line with international recommendations. This study showed that palliative chemotherapy is associated with more aggressive EOL care and indicates that younger patients and those with lower performance status are more likely to receive palliative chemotherapy. Significant variations in EOL treatment strategies among different age groups during the last year of life were also identified.

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