Background: Recently observed trends toward increasingly aggressive end-of-life care may reflect providers' concerns that hospice may hasten death.
Methods: Using the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results-Medicare linked database, we identified 7879 patients aged 65 years or older who died of advanced non-small-cell lung cancer from 1991 through 1999 after surviving for at least 3 months from their cancer diagnoses. Length of hospice admission post-cancer diagnosis and indicators of aggressive end-of-life care were ascertained based on claims data. We evaluated overall survival and care near death after controlling for baseline characteristics by using propensity score (PS) and instrumental variable analyses (IVA).
Results: Hospice patients were older, more likely to be non-Hispanic white and female, more likely to reside in urban areas with high hospice availability and higher socioeconomic status, more likely to be treated in a teaching hospital, and received less aggressive end-of-life care compared to nonhospice patients. Among hospice patients, those experiencing short-term hospice admissions within 3 days of death were more likely to be male, reside in urban areas, be treated in a teaching hospital, and receive more aggressive end-of-life care. PS analysis found that survival favored hospice patients slightly relative to nonhospice patients by 5.0 percentage points (25.7% versus 20.7%) at 1 year and 1.4 percentage points (6.9% versus 5.5%) at 2 years postdiagnosis (p < 0.001), while there was no significant difference between those with short- and longer duration hospice stays (p = 1.00). IVA confirmed these findings.
Conclusions: Hospice enrollment did not compromise length of survival following advanced lung cancer diagnosis.