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Indian J Palliat Care. 2012 Jan;18(1):40-4. doi: 10.4103/0973-1075.97348.

Should Blood Cultures be Performed in Terminally Ill Cancer Patients?

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  • 1Department of Pulmonology, Kameda Medical Center, Chiba, Japan.



No evidence-based guidelines or protocols to treat the infection-related symptoms in cancer patients with terminal stages have been established.


We retrospectively analyzed all the patients with terminal stage cancer who died between April 2009 and March 2010. The patients' background, the prevalence of infection and clinical outcomes, pathogens isolated, antibiotics used, and whether blood cultures and some of examinations were performed or not were evaluated.


A total of 62 (44 males and 18 females) patients were included in this study. The median age was 73 years (35-98 years). The most common cancer was that of the lung (n =59, 95.2%). A total of 32 patients were diagnosed with the following infections: Infection of respiratory tract in 27 (84.4%), of urinary tract in 4 (12.5%), and cholangitis in 1 (3.1%). Two cases (6.3%) had pneumonia complicated with urinary tract infection. Blood cultures and antibiotic therapies were performed in 28 and 30 cases, respectively. Four (14.3%) positive cultures were isolated from the blood obtained from 28 individual patients. As for clinical course, 3 (10%) of them experienced improved symptoms after antibiotic therapy. Twenty-seven (90%) patients were not confirmed as having any symptom improvement.


Blood cultures and antibiotic therapy were limited, and might not be effective in terminally ill cancer patients with lung cancer. We suggest that administering an antibiotic therapy without performing a blood culture would be one of choices in those with respiratory tract infections if patients' life expectancy is short.


Blood culture; Respiratory tract infection; Terminally ill cancer

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