Background: Annually, about 400 cases of sudden unexpected death are attributed to cancer in Tokyo, Japan. These individuals may have been undiagnosed, or their medical conditions may not have been carefully evaluated before death. We examined medical consultations, cancer diagnoses, and economic status of all cancer deaths investigated by medical examiners in 2009.
Methods: Among cases handled by the Tokyo Medical Examiner’s Office in 2009 (N = 12 493), records for all cases of cancer death (n = 400) were reviewed to determine the extent of medical care provided, diagnosis before death, and economic status of the decedent.
Results: Most of the decedents (n = 232; 58%) had received a diagnosis of terminal/advanced cancer during a medical consultation. Most did not receive such medical consultations at home, despite their very weak physical condition. However, nearly one quarter of decedents (24%; 95/400) had not received a cancer diagnosis before death. The proportions of decedents who had been indigent, received no medical consulting, and had colon cancer were significantly higher among undiagnosed cases than among diagnosed cases. Indigent persons were the largest subgroup (n = 19; 43%) among those who had never received a medical consultation (n = 44). In addition, the proportion of those who had discontinued or received no medical consultation was higher among indigent persons than among non-indigent persons.
Conclusions: The quality of medical services for cancer patients could be improved by educating general practitioners about terminal care, expanding efforts to monitor and diagnose cancer, especially among indigent patients, and increasing participation rates for colorectal cancer screening.
2014 Hideto Suzuki et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.