Is admittance to specialised palliative care among cancer patients related to sex, age and cancer diagnosis? A nation-wide study from the Danish Palliative Care Database (DPD)

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BACKGROUND: Specialised palliative care (SPC) takes place in specialised services for patients with complex symptoms and problems. Little is known about what determines the admission of patients to SPC and whether there are differences in relation to institution type. The aims of the study were to investigate whether cancer patients' admittance to SPC in Denmark varied in relation to sex, age and diagnosis, and whether the patterns differed by type of institution (hospital-based palliative care team/unit, hospice, or both).

METHODS: This was a register-based study of adult patients living in Denmark who died from cancer in 2010-2012. Data sources were the Danish Palliative Care Database, Danish Register of Causes of Death and Danish Cancer Registry. The associations between the explanatory variables (sex, age, diagnosis) and admittance to SPC were investigated using logistic regression.

RESULTS: In the study population (N = 44,548) the overall admittance proportion to SPC was 37%. Higher odds of overall admittance to SPC were found for women (OR = 1.23; 1.17-1.28), younger patients (<40 compared with 80+ years old) (OR = 6.44; 5.19-7.99) and patients with sarcoma, pancreatic and stomach cancers, whereas the lowest were for patients with haematological malignancies. The higher admission found for women was most pronounced for hospices compared to hospital-based palliative care teams/units, whereas higher admission of younger patients was more pronounced for hospital-based palliative care teams/units. Patients with brain cancer were more often admitted to hospices, whereas patients with prostate cancer were more often admitted to hospital-based palliative care teams/units.

CONCLUSION: It is unlikely that the variations in relation to sex, age and cancer diagnoses can be fully explained by differences in need. Future research should investigate whether the groups having the lowest admittance to SPC receive sufficient palliative care elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish
Article number21
JournalBMC Palliative Care
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2017

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  • Journal Article

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