How do treatment aims in the last phase of life relate to hospitalizations and hospital mortality? A mortality follow-back study of Dutch patients with five types of cancer

Mariska Oosterveld-Vlug, Gé Donker, Femke Atsma, Linda Brom, Yvonne de Man, Stef Groenewoud, Bregje Onwuteaka-Philipsen

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Purpose: The purpose of this study is to describe and compare the relation between treatment aims, hospitalizations, and hospital mortality for Dutch patients who died from lung, colorectal, breast, prostate, or pancreatic cancer. Methods: A mortality follow-back study was conducted within a sentinel network of Dutch general practitioners (GPs), who recorded the end-of-life care of 691 patients who died from one of the abovementioned cancer types between 2009 and 2015. Differences in care by type of cancer were analyzed using multilevel analyses to control for clustering within general practices. Results: Among all cancer types, patients with prostate cancer most often and patients with pancreatic cancer least often had a palliative treatment aim a month before death (95% resp. 84%). Prostate cancer patients were also least often admitted to hospital in the last month of life (18.5%) and least often died there (3.1%), whereas lung cancer patients were at the other end of the spectrum with 41.8% of them being admitted to hospital and 22.6% dying in hospital. Having a palliative treatment aim and being older were significantly associated with less hospital admissions, and having a palliative treatment aim, having prostate cancer, and dying in a more recent year were significantly associated with less hospital deaths. Conclusion: There is large variation between patients with different cancer types with regard to treatment aims, hospital admissions, and hospital deaths. The results highlight the need for early initiation of GP palliative care to support patients from all cancer types to stay at the place they prefer as long as possible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)777-786
Number of pages10
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Cancer
  • End-of-life care
  • Hospital mortality
  • Hospitalization
  • Palliative care
  • Treatment aim

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