"We know from prior research that patients with terminal illnesses, including incurable cancers, derive numerous benefits from hospice services," says Justin Jordan, MD, MPH, clinical director of the Pappas Center for Neuro-Oncology in the MGH Cancer Center, corresponding author of the report published in the journal Neuro-Oncology. "The magnitude of these benefits is notably reduced with late hospice referral. Even though timely hospice enrollment is an important measure of quality oncology care, we found that 37 percent of malignant glioma patients received no hospice at all prior to death."
Malignant gliomas include the aggressive and invariably fatal glioblastomas and other, slower growing but still incurable tumors. The average survival for glioblastoma patients is 15 months, and only 5 percent survive for as long as five years. Since no previous study has investigated either the proportion of glioma patients who enter hospice care or the length of time they receive hospice services, the MGH team analyzed information from a cancer database that included 12,437 patients with malignant gliomas who were treated and died from 2002 through 2012.
Of those patients, 7,849 were enrolled in hospice before their death, while 4,588 were not. The overall proportions of patients receiving hospice care remained fairly stable during the 10-year study period. While the average length of stay in hospice care was 21 days, 23 percent of patients enrolled less than a week before death, and 11 percent, less than three days. While race, education and household income were not associated with hospice length of stay, patients who were younger, male, and resided in rural areas were more likely to have a short hospice stay.