Treatment decisions and discontinuation of palliative chemotherapy near the end-of-life, in relation to socioeconomic variables

Acta Oncol. 2013 Aug;52(6):1062-6. doi: 10.3109/0284186X.2012.758872. Epub 2013 Feb 26.


During the last decades, the possibilities to prolong survival with chemotherapy even in metastatic disease have increased. Our aim was to study treatment decisions and treatment discontinuation decisions in the proximity of death.

Methods: The medical records of 346 patients with disseminated cancer and a recorded death during 2009 were assessed in relation to demographic and clinical variables and documented treatment decisions were recorded.

Results: Palliative chemotherapy was offered in 54% or these cases and generally one or two regimens were administered, before ending treatment. During the last month of life, 32% received treatment and much more often as an oral (instead of intravenous) treatment than in earlier stages (p < 0.001). Younger patients (p = 0.02) and those with young children (p < 0.001) were treated to a higher degree and also closer to death (p = 0.03). Other variables associated with a higher probability of treatment were high education level (p = 0.001), living with a partner (p = 0.001), female gender (p = 0.023) and ethnicity of non-European origin (p = 0.031). In a multivariate analysis, young age and high education remained as independent factors. In 57% of the cases there was no formal documentation of treatment discontinuation or end-of-life discussions with the patient.

Conclusion: Socioeconomic status (SES) is of importance for the treatment decisions. About half of the patients with disseminated disease receive palliative chemotherapy and of these, about one third are treated even during the last month of life. In a majority of cases, there is no formal documentation of treatment discontinuation or end-of-life discussions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Futility*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Palliative Care / economics*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / economics*
  • Terminal Care / economics*
  • Young Adult