12 Apr, 12 | by BMJ Group
A study conducted by researchers at Dartmouth University has found that many late-stage cancer patients in the US are receiving unsatisfactory care, with healthcare facilities not fulfilling quality care guidelines.
The team concluded that whilst cancer care has improved over recent years, over a quarter of outpatient oncology practices studied did not adhere to end-of-life quality care guidelines, and a shocking 44% of practices didn’t meet standards for symptom and toxicity management.
Surprisingly, the study also found no significant difference in the quality of care between different types of hospital, with National Cancer Institute designated hospitals providing the same low quality of palliative care as smaller community hospitals. The only difference between the two care settings was that community hospitals were more likely to deliver chemotherapy within the last two weeks of their life – an uncomfortable and unnecessary treatment.
In general, the study indicated that hospitals tended to continue to aggressively treat cancer during the last weeks of life, at a time when palliative (rather than curative) treatments would be more suitable and more humane.