Palliative chemotherapy during the last month of life

Ann Oncol. 2011 Nov;22(11):2375-2380. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdq778. Epub 2011 Mar 14.


Background: This study analyses the potential discriminative characteristics for patients with incurable cancer who received palliative chemotherapy during their last month of life.

Patients and methods: The study includes all patients with epithelial cancer treated with palliative chemotherapy who died in 2008 in northern Sweden. Demographic parameters and care utilization data were registered. Data were analyzed using nonparametric methods.

Results: Of 374 included patients, 87 (23%) received chemotherapy during the last month of life. These patients had a significantly shorter survival time from first palliative treatment to death, were admitted more frequently to hospital, more often lacked a documented decision to cease treatment, and died less frequently at home.

Conclusions: The results indicate covariations between palliative chemotherapy treatments in the last month of life and unfavorable patient outcomes. As almost one of four patients with incurable cancer received their last round of palliative chemotherapy <31 days before death, there is a potential for improved routines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Ovarian Epithelial
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / mortality
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / mortality
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Terminal Care / methods*


  • Antineoplastic Agents