10 Jul Most Young Cancer Patients Receive Intensive Measures At End of Life
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jennifer Mack, MD, MPH
Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center
Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Mack: This study evaluated the intensity of end-of-life care received by adolescents and young adults (AYAs) with cancer. Little was previously known about the kind of end-of-life care these young patients receive. We evaluated the care of 663 Kaiser Permanente Southern California patients who died between the ages of 15 and 39 between the years 2001 and 2010. We found that more than two-thirds of adolescents and young adults received at least one form of intensive end-of-life care before death. This includes chemotherapy in the last two weeks of life (11%), more than one emergency room visit in the last month of life (22%), intensive care unit care in the last month of life (22%), and hospitalization in the last month of life (62%).
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Mack: A majority of dying young people with cancer receive intensive measures at the end of life. Older patients who know they are dying usually do not want to receive intensive measures, which are associated with a poorer quality of life near death. High rates of intensive measures raise the concern that young people may experience unnecessary suffering at the end of life. However, it is also important to recognize that adolescents and young adult patients may have different priorities than older patients, and may be more willing to accept intensive measures in order to live as long as possible. Clinicians, patients, and family members should talk about what is most important to patients at the end of life so that their values can be upheld, whether patients prioritize doing everything possible to live as long as possible or focus on quality of life.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Mack: Future research should further examine end-of-life decision-making for adolescents and young adults, including the reasons for receipt of intensive measures.