Place of death in haematological malignancy: variations by disease sub-type and time from diagnosis to death

BMC Palliat Care. 2013 Nov 19;12(1):42. doi: 10.1186/1472-684X-12-42.


Background: The reasons patients with haematological malignancies die in hospital more often than those with other cancers is the subject of much speculation. We examined variations in place of death by disease sub-type and time from diagnosis to death, to identify groups of 'at-risk' patients.

Methods: The study is based in the United Kingdom within the infrastructure of the Haematological Malignancy Research Network (HMRN), a large on-going population-based cohort including all patients newly diagnosed with haematological malignancies in the north of England. Diagnostic, demographic, prognostic, treatment and outcome data are collected for each patient and individuals are 'flagged' for death. This study includes all adults (≥18 years) diagnosed 1st September 2004 to 31st August 2010 (n = 10,325), focussing on those who died on/before 31st August 2012 (n = 4829).

Results: Most deaths occurred in hospital (65.9%), followed by home (15.6%), nursing home (11%) and hospice (7.5%) and there was little variation by diagnostic sub-type overall. Differences in place of death were, however, observed by time from diagnosis to death, and this was closely related to sub-type; 87.7% of deaths within a month of diagnosis happened in hospital and these largely occurred in patients with acute myeloid leukaemia, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and myeloma. Patients surviving longer, and particularly beyond 1 year, were less likely to die in hospital and this corresponded with an increase in the proportion of home deaths.

Conclusions: Time from diagnosis to death was clearly a major determinant of place of death and many patients that died within three months of diagnosis did so in hospital. This was closely related to disease sub-type, with early deaths occurring most notable in the more aggressive diseases. This is likely to be due to a combination of factors including acute presentation, rapid disease progression without transition to a palliative approach to care and complications of treatment. Nonetheless, hospital deaths also occurred frequently in indolent diseases, suggesting that other factors were likely to contribute to the large proportion of hospital deaths overall. More evidence is needed to fully understand these complex cancers.