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Korean J Fam Med. 2012 Jan;33(1):44-50. doi: 10.4082/kjfm.2012.33.1.44. Epub 2012 Jan 31.

The realities and associated factors of palliative chemotherapy near the end of life in the patients enrolled in palliative care unit.

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1
Department of Family Medicine, Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

It is important to know and decide when to end regimen for the quality of life of the patients. However, there is currently no clear agreement on when to terminate palliative chemotherapy. We investigated the duration between the last chemotherapy and death, and associated factors affecting patients receiving palliative care after the last chemotherapy.

METHODS:

We studied 242 patients who were put into palliative care ward after receiving chemotherapy and died during hospitalization from 2008 to 2009. Electronic medical records were used to gather information on demographic characteristics, types of primary cancer, and palliative chemotherapy. Then we analyzed the relationship between the clinical characteristics of patients and interval between last chemotherapy and death.

RESULTS:

The average survival time of patients after referral to palliative care was 17.5 days; survival time after discontinuation of chemotherapy was 103 days. Also, 104 (43.0%) patients died within 3 months and 14 (5.8%) patients died within 1 month of persistent palliative chemotherapy. Chemotherapy on patients within 3 months from their death was not associated with the social characteristics of the population.

CONCLUSION:

The patients who were referred to palliative care were found to have continued to receive chemotherapy within 3 months before death. However, only a small number of patients received chemotherapy within 1 month before death, which confirms that futile chemotherapy that extends to the end of life was less frequent. Doctors should be able to recognize the implications of excessive and aggressive use of chemotherapy and should actively communicate with patients about therapeutic choices.

KEYWORDS:

Chemotherapy; End-of-Life Care; Palliative Care

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