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Early referral to a palliative team improves end-of-life care among gynecological cancer patients: a retrospective, population-based study


Objective To assess end-of-life care among patients with gynecological cancer, and to describe the association between timing of palliative care referral and patterns of care.

Methods All women with residence in Oslo, Norway, who died of gynecological cancer between January 1, 2015 and December 30, 2017 (36 months), were identified. Patients were primarily treated at the Norwegian Radium Hospital and clinical data on end-of-life care were retrospectively extracted from the medical records.

Results We identified 163 patients with median age 70.1 years at death (range 26–100) with the following diagnoses: ovarian (n=100), uterine (n=40), cervical (n=21), and vulvar cancer (n=2). 53 (33%) of patients died in a palliative care unit, 34 patients (21%) died in nursing homes without palliative care, and 48 (29%) patients died in hospital. Only 15 (9%) patients died at home. 25 (15%) patients received chemotherapy in the last 30 days before death, especially ovarian cancer patients (n=21, 21%). 103 patients (61%) were referred to a palliative team prior to death. Referral to a palliative team was associated with a significantly reduced risk of intensive care unit admission (OR 0.11, 95% CI 0.02 to 0.62) and higher likelihood of a structured end-of-life discussion (OR 2.91, 95% CI 1.03 to 8.25). Palliative care referral also seemed to be associated with other quality indicators of end-of-life care (less chemotherapy use, more home deaths).

Conclusions End-of-life care in patients with gynecological cancer suffers from underuse of palliative care. Chemotherapy is still commonly used towards end-of-life. Early palliative care referral in the disease trajectory may be an important step towards improved end-of-life care.

  • palliative care
  • ovarian neoplasms
  • uterine cervical neoplasms
  • uterine neoplasms

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. On request an anonymous data file might be available by contacting the main author.

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