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Cancer. 2017 Sep 1;123(17):3377-3384. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30735. Epub 2017 May 22.

Why are patients with blood cancers more likely to die without hospice?

Author information

Division of Population Sciences, Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts.
Center for Lymphoma, Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts.
Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Department of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts.
Division of Palliative Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
Center for Leukemia, Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts.



Although patients with blood cancers have significantly lower rates of hospice use than those with solid malignancies, data explaining this gap in end-of-life care are sparse.


In 2015, we conducted a mailed survey of a randomly selected sample of hematologic oncologists in the United States to characterize their perspectives regarding the utility and adequacy of hospice for blood cancer patients, as well as factors that might impact referral patterns. Simultaneous provision of care for patients with solid malignancies was permitted.


We received 349 surveys (response rate, 57.3%). The majority of respondents (68.1%) strongly agreed that hospice care is helpful for patients with hematologic cancers; those with practices including greater numbers of solid tumor patients (at least 25%) were more likely to strongly agree (odds ratio, 2.10; 95% confidence interval, 1.26-3.52). Despite high levels of support for hospice in general, 46.0% felt that home hospice is inadequate for their patients' needs (as compared to inpatient hospice with round-the-clock care). Although more than half of the respondents reported that they would be more likely to refer patients to hospice if red cell and/or platelet transfusions were available, those who considered home hospice inadequate were even more likely to report that they would (67.3% vs 55.3% for red cells [P = .03] and 52.9% vs 39.7% for platelets [P = .02]).


These data suggest that although hematologic oncologists value hospice, concerns about the adequacy of services for blood cancer patients limit hospice referrals. To increase hospice enrollment for blood cancer patients, interventions tailoring hospice services to their specific needs are warranted. Cancer 2017;123:3377-84. © 2017 American Cancer Society.


blood cancers; end-of-life care; hematologic oncologists; hospice; palliative care

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