Where do cancer patients die? Ten-year trends in the place of death of cancer patients in England

Higginson, I.J.; Astin, P.; Dolan, S.
September 1998
Palliative Medicine;1998, Vol. 12 Issue 5, p353
Academic Journal
Although studies have found that 5070% of cancer patients would prefer to die at home, there has been a trend towards the hospitalization of the dying in many countries. No study has attempted to analyse the changes in place of death in detail. The aim was to analyse the 10-year trends in place of death of cancer patients, by region and by diagnosis, within England. To do this, data on the place of death and patients' characteristics were derived from death registrations for all cancer deaths between the years 198594. We examined trends in the place of death for the whole of England, for each region separately and for the main cancer diagnoses. The results show that there were over 1.3 million death registrations from cancer during the 10 years. The mean age increased over the period from 69.9 years in 1985, to 71.3 years in 1994. The percentage who died in a UK National Health Service (NHS) hospital or nursing home fell gradually from 58% (1985) to 47.3% (1994), while the percentage who died in non-NHS hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and communal establishments increased. The percentage who died at home fell slightly but steadily between 1985 and 1992 from 27% to 25.5% and since then increased slightly to 26.5% in 1994. The percentage of home deaths was lowest in the two Thames regions (less than 25%) and highest in the West Midlands, Anglia and Oxford (over 29%). These differentials were maintained across age groups and diagnoses. Older people and women were less likely to die at home than younger people and men. Significant trends showing an increase in home deaths were found in two regions: North Thames and South Thames. Patients with cancers of the lung, colorectum, respiratory organs, bone or connective tissue and lip, oral cavity and pharynx were more likely to die at home (over 29% in 1994) than patients with cancers of the breast (women, 25% in 1994) or the lymphatic or haematological system (16% in 1994). It can be concluded that the trend towards a reducing home death rate from cancer in England appears to have halted, although this varies between regions. This has implications for primary care services. Although hospital is still the most common place of death from cancer, the percentage of cancer patients who die in hospital is reducing. The largest rise is in the increasing use of hospices and communal establishments, including residential and nursing homes. Given the ageing population, this trend is likely to continue.


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