In order to understand the current status of terminal care for cancer patients and to investigate the significance of palliative care units (PCUs), we reviewed 414 cancer patients who died at our hospital during the 2-year period since October 2013 (PCU: 219 patients, general wards: 195 patients) based on their history of anticancer therapy and use of palliative care. Compared with PCU patients, those in the general wards were older, the diagnosis was delayed, and disease progression was more rapid. It was suggested that these factors had a negative impact on the opportunity to receive standard anticancer therapy and palliative care. Among the patients who received chemotherapy, the median interval from the final treatment to death was 110 days for those in the PCU while it was significantly shorter (55 days) for those in the general wards. Chemotherapy was administered within 1 month before death to 2% of patients in the PCU versus 32% of patients in the general wards, so the rate was much higher among the latter patients. In order to provide appropriate terminal care for cancer patients, the PCU seems to be important. Irrespective of the timing of cancer diagnosis and progression, it is important to increase general social awareness of palliative care and advanced care planning in order to promote the use of palliative care strategies.
2016 by Japanese Society for Palliative Medicine