CONTEXT: A significant proportion of cancer patients at end of life (EOL) undergo radiotherapy, but this evidence is not from nationwide population-based studies.
OBJECTIVES: The aims of this population-based study were to investigate the trend in undergoing radiotherapy among Taiwanese cancer patients' last month of life (EOL radiotherapy) in 2001-2010 and to identify factors associated with EOL radiotherapy.
METHODS: This was a population-based retrospective cohort study analyzing data from Taiwan's national death registry, cancer registry, and National Health Insurance claims for EOL radiotherapy using multilevel generalized linear mixed modeling. Participants were Taiwanese cancer patients (N = 339,546) who died in 2001-2010.
RESULTS: Overall, 8.59% (7.97%-9.85%) of patients underwent EOL radiotherapy with a decreasing trend over time. Correlates of EOL radiotherapy included male gender, younger age, residing in less urbanized areas, diagnosis of lung cancer, metastatic disease, death within two years of diagnosis, and without comorbidities. Cancer patients were more likely to undergo EOL radiotherapy if they received primary care from medical oncologists and pediatricians, in a nonprofit, teaching hospital with a larger case volume of terminally ill cancer patients, and greater EOL care intensity.
CONCLUSION: Approximately one-tenth of Taiwanese cancer patients underwent EOL radiotherapy with a decreasing trend over time. Undergoing EOL radiotherapy was associated with demographics, disease characteristics, physician specialty, and primary hospital's characteristics and EOL care practice patterns. Clinical and financial interventions should target hospitals/physicians that tend to aggressively treat at-risk cancer patients at EOL to carefully evaluate the appropriateness and effectiveness of using EOL radiotherapy.