Background: Palliative care needs are increasing as more people are dying from incurable diseases. Healthcare costs have been reported to be highest during the last year of life, but studies on the actual costs of palliative care are scarce.
Aim: To explore the resource use and costs of palliative care among end-stage breast, colorectal and prostate cancer patients after termination of life-prolonging oncological treatments, that is, during the palliative care period.
Design: A real-life longitudinal register- and questionnaire-based study of cancer patients' resource use and costs.
Participants: In total, 70 patients in palliative care with no ongoing oncological treatments were recruited from the Helsinki University Hospital or from the local hospice. Healthcare costs, productivity costs and informal care costs were included.
Results: The mean duration of the palliative care period was 179 days. The healthcare cost accounted for 55%, informal care for 27% and productivity costs for 18% of the total costs. The last 2 weeks of life contributed to 37% of the healthcare cost. The costs of the palliative care period were higher in patients living alone, which was mostly caused by inpatient care ( p = 0.018).
Conclusion: The 45% share of indirect costs is substantial in end-of-life care. The healthcare costs increase towards death, which is especially true of patients living alone. This highlights the significant role of caregivers. More attention should be paid to home care and caregiver support to reduce inpatient care needs and control the costs of end-of-life care.
Keywords: Breast cancer; colorectal cancer; costs; end-of-life care; health economics; palliative care; prostate cancer.