Despite Recommendations, Aggressive Cancer Treatment Still Common at End of Life

Laura Panjwani
Published: Monday, Jun 06, 2016

While it is ultimately up to a patient if he or she would like to continue receiving aggressive treatment at the end of life, oncologists and oncology nurses need to do a better job of discussing patients’ wishes and educating them on their options, said Andrew Epstein, MD, press briefing panelist and ASCO Expert in palliative care.

“Education for any clinician, whether it is a physician a nurse, or others, is extremely important in order to improve their ability to have these very challenging conversations about the end of life and what is important to patients and their families,” said Epstein. “We need to teach oncology professionals, especially doctors, in order to make these very, very challenging conversations easier. We need to find out what is important to patients and their families and marry the care delivered to what they say is important.”

Next steps for this research could include using this dataset to compare end-of-life aggressive treatment rates in younger patients to those in older patients, said Ganz. Previous studies have shown that elderly patients have similar rates of aggressive treatment in their last 30 days of life, but no side-by-side comparison has been done, she said.

“Looking at the younger patients, we need to know if they are being treated more aggressively than the older population, what the patterns of care are, and if they mimic what is seen in the older population,” said Ganz. “This is a really great opportunity from this database to begin to look at this.”
Falchook A, Tian F, Basak R et al. Aggressive care at the end-of-life for younger cancer patients: impact of ASCO’s Choosing Wisely Campaign. J Clin Oncol. 2016;34 (suppl; abstr LBA10033).

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