Original Article

Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 11-18

First online:

Care in the Months before Death and Hospice Enrollment Among Older Women with Advanced Breast Cancer

  • Nancy L. KeatingAffiliated withDivision of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s HospitalDepartment of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School Email author 
  • , Mary Beth LandrumAffiliated withDepartment of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School
  • , Edward GuadagnoliAffiliated withDepartment of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School
  • , Eric P. WinerAffiliated withDepartment of Adult Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
  • , John Z. AyanianAffiliated withDivision of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s HospitalDepartment of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School

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Abstract

Background

Variations in hospice use are not well understood.

Objective

Assess whether care before death, including the types of physicians seen, number of outpatient visits, and hospitalizations, was associated with hospice use and the timing of enrollment.

Design/setting

Observational study of a population-based sample of advanced breast cancer patients included in the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results—Medicare database.

Patients

There were 4,455 women aged ≥65 diagnosed with stage III/IV breast cancer during 1992–1999 who died before the end of 2001.

Measurements

Hospice use and, among enrollees, enrollment within 2 weeks of death. Independent variables of interest included hospitalizations, outpatient visits, and physicians seen before death.

Results

Adjusted hospice use rates were higher for hospitalized patients (45% if hospitalized for 1–7 days, 46% if 8–20 days, 35% if ≥21 days) than those not hospitalized (31%, P < 0.001). Adjusted rates were also higher among patients seeing a cancer specialist and primary care provider (PCP; 41%) and those seeing a cancer specialist and no PCP (38%) than among those seeing a PCP and no cancer specialist (30%) or neither type of physician (22%; P < 0.001). Hospice use also increased with increasing frequency of outpatient visits (P < 0.001). Hospitalizations, physicians seen, and visits were not associated with referral within 2 weeks of death (all P ≥ 0.10).

Discussion

Care before death is associated with hospice use among older women with advanced breast cancer. Additional research is needed to understand better how differences in patient characteristics and disease status influence cancer care before death and the role of various types of physicians in hospice referrals.

KEY WORDS

end-of-life care breast cancer outpatient care