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Radiation oncology quality: aggressiveness of cancer care near the end of life

Journal title
Journal of the American College of Radiology : JACR
Publication year
Toole, M.; Lutz, S.; Johnstone, P. A.

PURPOSE: Quality in cancer care is an issue that has come to the forefront over the past decade. Although the American Society of Clinical Oncology has developed extensive quality metrics and goals, such as limiting chemotherapy being provided within the last 14 days of a patient’s life, there are no similar quality metrics, and few data, in the field of radiation oncology. METHODS: In this study, morbidity and mortality records from 2008 to 2011 were reviewed for patients at Indiana University who received radiation therapy (RT) within 30 days of death; 63 patients met those criteria. RESULTS: Analysis showed that 22.2% of patients had Karnofsky Performance Status Scale scores >80, whereas 66.7% of patients had scores < 60. Just over half of patients (52%) were still on treatment at death, and more than half of patients (54%) had completed less than half of their original RT plans. Six patients had their final treatments on the days of their deaths, and another 43 patients had their last treatments within 10 days of death. Forty-eight percent of patients received RT for less than one-fifth of their final month of life and 21% for more than half of their last month alive. CONCLUSIONS: These data are valuable in ongoing discussions of RT use at the end of life, especially as related to hospice underutilization.

Research abstracts