Care in the Final Month of Life among Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Patients in Kaiser Permanente Southern California

J Palliat Med. 2016 Nov;19(11):1136-1141. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2015.0527. Epub 2016 Aug 2.


Background: Little is known about the care that adolescent and young adult (AYA) patients with cancer receive at the end of life (EOL).

Objective: To examine care in the last month of life among AYA patients with cancer.

Design: Medical record review of the last 30 days of life.

Setting/subjects: One hundred eleven AYA patients aged 15-39 years at death with either stage I-III cancer and evidence of cancer recurrence or stage IV cancer at diagnosis. Patients received care in Kaiser Permanente Southern California, an integrated healthcare delivery system, and died from 2007 to 2010.

Measurements: Use of intensive measures, including chemotherapy in the last 14 days of life and emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and intensive care unit admissions in the last 30 days; documented care preferences; symptom prevalence and treatment; advance care planning; hospice use; and location of death.

Results: One hundred seven patients (96%) had documented care preferences in the last month of life. At first documentation, 72% of patients wished for life-prolonging care, 20% wished for care focused on comfort, and 8% were undecided. Forty-seven percent of patients had documented changes in preferences in the last month, with 40% wishing for life-prolonging care when preferences were last noted before death, 56% preferring comfort, and 4% undecided. Seventy-eight percent of patients received at least one form of intensive EOL care, including 75% of those who preferred comfort measures at last documentation.

Conclusions: Many AYA patients enter the last month of life wishing for life-prolonging care. While most ultimately wish for comfort, intensive care is prevalent even among such patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Advance Care Planning
  • California
  • Hospice Care
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms*
  • Terminal Care
  • Young Adult