Cause and place of death in patients dying with colorectal cancer

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Few studies on colorectal cancer look at the one-third of patients for whom treatment fails and who need a management strategy for death. This paper has examined the mode and place of death in patients with colorectal cancer.


This study was a review of 209 deaths, analysed between January 2001 and September 2004 by retrospective review of a prospectively collected database.


A total of 118 patients (group 1) had undergone resection of their primary colorectal cancer, 20 (group 2) had had a defunctioning stoma or bypass surgery and the remaining 71 patients (group 3) had either had no surgery, an open and close laparotomy or had a colonic stent. One hundred and fifty-six (75%) patients died of colorectal cancer with the remainder dying of other causes. The number of admissions to hospital and the number of days spent in hospital from diagnosis to death were greatest in group 1. Overall, only 34 patients (22%) dying from colorectal cancer died at home. Forty (26%) died in hospital and 70 (45%) died in a palliative care unit.


Patients dying from colorectal cancer who undergo surgical resection of their primary tumour spend more time between diagnosis and death in hospital. They are also more likely to die in hospital than patients treated by surgical palliation or nonsurgically. Patients who are treated palliatively from the outset (group 3) are most likely to die at home. If hospital is accepted as an appropriate place for death from colorectal cancer, then greater provision for this should be made.

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