According to a story from philly.com, many people with severe forms of brain cancer are not receiving sufficient hospice treatment, according to a recent assessment. The study took data from over 12,000 people who died from brain cancer in the ten year period from 2002 to 2012.
This is happening despite that fact that people with severe illnesses, even terminal ones, still receive significant benefits from hospice care. Generally, the earlier patients are referred to hospice, the greater the benefits become. Hospice care is an approach to medical care that focuses primarily on treating disease symptoms by minimizing pain, alleviating mental and physical stress, and attending to the emotional and spiritual needs of a patient. Hospice is generally meant for those who are terminally or chronically ill, or those who are so severely sick that their functionality is limited. In the United States, hospice is often recommended for those patients with a terminal illness that would, at the time that hospice care would begin, would have less than six months left to live.
Sixty percent of patients with severe brain cancer chose to enroll in hospice according to the study. They were in hospice for an average of twenty-one days. However, this number seemed low to researchers, and around thirty-seven percent of patients received no hospice treatment at all before they died. Of the percentage that enrolled, twenty-three percent were in hospice for less than a week, and eleven percent of those were in hospice for three days or less, which was not long enough for the stay to have much benefit.
Patients who were younger, were male, and lived in rural areas were more likely to have the short stays in hospice. It is possible that patients in rural areas may have less options for hospice care, which could partially explain the short stays. Studies have also shown that men are as a whole less likely to seek medical treatment and go to the doctor less often. Since brain cancers often have a very poor survival rate (around 35% five year survival) and symptoms and patient condition tend to worsen very quickly, doctors believe that hospice care would be that much more crucial for these patients.