Most cancer patients get end-of-life care talks late

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Feb. 20, 2012

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Nearly three-quarters of patients with stage IV lung or colorectal cancer have end-of-life care discussions with physicians, but most of those talks come later than they should, said a study of nearly 2,200 patients published Feb. 7 in Annals of Internal Medicine (link).

Nearly 90% of the patients who died during the two-year study period had at least one talk about end-of-life care, according to family members or other surrogates interviewed by researchers in Boston, Los Angeles and Toronto. Of the discussions documented in patient records, most occurred in the hospital.

Oncologists documented end-of-life care talks with less than 30% of their patients. Typically, the discussions happened less than five weeks before patients died. These discussions, which help determine how aggressively to pursue curative therapy compared with palliative and hospice care, should happen before patients are hospitalized and involve oncologists, the study said.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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