Last days: a study of the quality of life of terminally ill cancer patients

J Chronic Dis. 1986;39(1):47-62. doi: 10.1016/0021-9681(86)90106-2.


Behavior of a number of Quality of Life measures gathered from two samples of terminal cancer patients over the last weeks of their lives are reported. Samples represent patients in the 26 hospices participating in a nationwide U.S. demonstration project and patients in the palliative care units of two Montreal hospitals. The U.S. data reported are quality of life measures made by a lay principal care person (PCP) or trained interviewer; the Montreal measures were made by both an attending doctor and an attending nurse. The general finding, as expected, is one of increasing deterioration in quality of life, with accelerated deterioration between 3 and 1 week of death. Pain follows a somewhat different pattern than other measures. More patients are in either of the extreme categories at an earlier point in time than found for other measures, and there are fewer changes as death is approached. Finally, about 20% of the patients do not fall into extremely low quality of life categories, even in the week prior to death.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Hospices
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Pain / etiology
  • Palliative Care
  • Quality of Life*
  • Quebec
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Terminal Care*
  • Time Factors
  • United States