Late-Stage Chemo Linked to 'Less Peaceful' Death

Subjects who continued chemotherapy in last months less likely to die at home
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 10, 2014 11:57 AM CDT

(Newser) – Sad news for cancer patients: A new study finds that those who receive chemotherapy during the end stages of the disease are at a higher risk of enduring a less peaceful death. Of 386 terminally ill patients in a new study, 65% of those who received chemotherapy during the final few months of their life died in their preferred place (for example, at home as opposed to in a hospital). But 80% of those who had chosen to stop treatment died in their preferred location, CBS News reports. Those who continued chemotherapy were more likely to die in an intensive care unit, to undergo CPR, and to be placed on a ventilator.

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Those who continued treatment were also less likely to have discussed their end-of-life wishes with their doctors. "There’s a subtle dance that happens between oncologist and patient," the lead author explains to the Boston Globe. "Doctors don’t want to broach the subject of dying, especially in younger patients, because it makes those patients think we’re giving up on them." Of the subjects, who died within an average of four months after the study, 56% continued chemotherapy—and they tended to be younger, wealthier, more educated, and more optimistic about their chances of survival. The lead author thinks chemotherapy may give end-stage patients a false sense of hope. (Read more chemotherapy stories.)

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