The utilization of palliative care in gynecologic oncology patients near the end of life

Gynecol Oncol. 2012 Oct;127(1):175-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2012.06.025. Epub 2012 Jun 24.


Background: Palliative and supportive care services provide excellent care to patients near the end of life. It is estimated that enrollment in such services can reduce end-of-life costs; however, there is limited data available regarding the impact of palliative services in end-of-life care in gynecologic oncology patients. We examined the use of palliative services in gynecologic oncology patients during the last six months of life.

Methods: After IRB approval, a retrospective chart review of patients with a diagnosis of a gynecologic malignancy who died between June 2007 and June 2010 was performed. Abstracted data included demographics, admission and procedural history, use of anti-cancer therapy, and palliative care utilization during the last six months of life.

Results: 268 patients were identified. Most patients were white (76.9%) and had ovarian cancer (56.7%). During the last six months of life, 155 (57.8%) patients underwent anti-cancer therapy with chemotherapy, 19 (7.1%) patients were treated with radiation therapy, and 17 patients (6.3%) underwent treatment with both. 218 patients (81.3%) had at least one admission during this time (range 0-14). The most common reason for admission was gastrointestinal complaints (37.1%), followed by admissions for procedures (18.3%). The median time between the last admission and death was 32 days. 157 patients (58.6%) underwent at least one procedure during the last six months of life (range 0-11). The most common procedure performed was paracentesis (22.6%). 198 (73.9%) patients died at home or in a palliative care unit. 189 (70.5%) patients were referred to hospice or palliative care. 3.2% underwent a procedure or treatment with chemotherapy or radiation after hospice enrollment. The median time between hospice enrollment and death was 22 days. 55% of patients were enrolled in hospice less than 30 days before death. Of the 79 patients not referred to hospice, only 16.5% had documentation of refusing hospice services.

Conclusions: During the last six months of life, the majority of gynecologic oncology patients receive anticancer therapy and many have repeated hospital admissions. While the majority of patients are referred for palliative care, it appears that most patients spend less than 30 days on hospice. Earlier referral could decrease the number of hospital admissions and procedures while providing invaluable support during this end of life transition.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alabama
  • Female
  • Genital Neoplasms, Female / psychology
  • Genital Neoplasms, Female / therapy*
  • Hospice Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quality of Life
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Terminal Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Terminally Ill / psychology
  • Young Adult