Population-based analysis of radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment in the last month of life within regional Australia

Intern Med J. 2020 May;50(5):596-602. doi: 10.1111/imj.14377.


Background: Cancer treatment near end of life is not likely to add meaningful benefit and minimising intervention rates has been promoted as an indicator of quality of care. Population-based analysis of treatment allows comparative analysis of treatment rates and provides insight into patterns of care.

Aims: To report a population-based analysis of both radiotherapy and active systemic therapy (AST) delivery rates along with patterns of treatment within the last 14 and 30 days of life.

Methods: The Evaluation of Cancer Outcomes Registry records clinical information on all newly diagnosed cancer patients for the Barwon South West Region of Victoria, Australia. Diagnosis details, tumour type and stage as well as core treatment details and date of death were extracted for all patients diagnosed from 2009 to 2015 inclusive.

Results: A total of 12 760 cases cancers were recorded. The median age of all cases was 68.8, and 53% were male. AST was received by 3699 (29%) of patients and radiotherapy by 3811 (30%). Patient deaths within 14 and 30 days of treatment for AST were 4.3 and 8.7%, respectively, and deaths within 14 and 30 days of treatment for radiotherapy 3.8 and 8.0% respectively. Factors associated with death within 30 days of AST and/or radiotherapy were male gender, age greater than 70 years and higher disease stage (all P < 0.01). Treatment rates within 30 days of death were highest for lung cancer (23% of cases) and lowest for breast cancer (2% of cases).

Conclusions: This population-based analysis of AST and radiotherapy treatment within the last 30 days of life within a region of Australia has shown overall treatment rates below 10%. Treatment rates appear influenced by both patient and tumour characteristics. Future focus on subgroups with high rates of late intervention may help minimise treatment unlikely to add benefit.

Keywords: chemotherapy; palliative care; radiotherapy; terminal care.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms*
  • Male
  • Victoria