Background: Cancer care near the end of life (EOL) has become more aggressive over the years. Palliative care services (PCS) may decrease this aggressive cancer care in terminally ill cancer patients. Our objective was to observe the aggressiveness of cancer care near the EOL among Veterans Affairs cancer patients before and after the institution of a PCS team. We also assessed the time taken prior to death to initiate a PCS consultation and its effect on the aggressiveness of cancer care near the EOL. Methods: This is a retrospective chart review analysis performed at the local Veterans Affairs hospital looking at the last 100 patients in each of the years, 2002 and 2008, who died with active cancer. Only patients in 2008 had access to a PCS team. Results: In the last 30 days of life, compared to 2002, patients in 2008 had a higher incidence of: chemotherapy administration, more than one hospital admission, more than 14 days of hospital stay, intensive care unit admissions, and in-hospital deaths. Patients with timely PCS consults in 2008 appeared to have a lower incidence of: chemotherapy administration, more than one emergency department visit, more than one hospital admission, more than 14-day hospital stays, intensive care unit admissions, and deaths in the hospital. Timely PCS consults were associated with earlier and more frequent hospice referral. Conclusions: Cancer care near the EOL has become more aggressive with time at one of the hospitals in the Veterans Affairs healthcare system (VAHS). Institution of a PCS service was unable to completely decrease this trend of increasing aggressiveness of cancer care near the EOL. However, timely PCS consults may help attenuate this aggressiveness.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine