End-of-life disparities seen for minority patients with cancer

Ethnic and racial minorities with leukemia or lymphoma are more likely to die in hospital and receive aggressive care than white patients.

When it comes to cancer, racial and ethnic minorities experience different end-of-life care than white patients.

A new study of nearly 9,500 blood cancer patients found that minority patients were more likely to receive aggressive care in the last 30 days of life and to die in the hospital than non-Hispanic white patients. They were also less likely to have documents on file detailing their end-of-life wishes. 

These findings were presented Monday at the American Society of Hematology’s annual meeting by Dr. Kedar Kirtane, a blood cancer researcher at the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. 

Of the study’s findings, the fact that racial minorities were less likely to have documentation in place describing their wishes for end-of-life care — also known as “advance directives” — could underlie the other disparities such as being more likely to receive aggressive treatments. If patients’ wishes aren’t getting into their medical records, or aren’t even expressed in the first place, that could lead to emergency and potentially unnecessary treatments that the patients never wanted, Kirtane said.

Read study details from the Fred Hutch News Service.

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