Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cancer patients die too often in hospitals, study says - The Boston Globe

Researchers at the Dartmouth Atlas Project in Lebanon, N.H., analyzed the records of 235,821 Medicare patients ages 65 and older who died between 2003 and 2007. Overall, the researchers found that one-third of patients spent their last days in hospitals and intensive-care units. But there was a big range. At one end was Manhattan, where 46.7 percent died in the hospital. In contrast, 7 percent of cancer patients died in the hospital in Mason City, Iowa.

While chemotherapy and other aggressive procedures can prolong life and enable some cancer patients to return home and to work, studies have shown that these treatments have little or no value for frail elderly patients and those with advanced cancer. But 6 percent of patients received chemotherapy in their last two weeks of life, and the rate was much higher — more than 10 percent — in some places, the researchers found.

Similarly, more than 18 percent of cancer patients were placed on a feeding tube or received cardiopulmonary resuscitation in their last two weeks of life in Manhattan, compared with less than 4 percent in Minneapolis.

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