Cancer blind spot

US research indicates that nursing homes provide little in the way of cancer care for residents.

Research from the US indicates that nursing home residents receive poor cancer care.

American nursing home residents receive relatively few cancer services – including screening, surgical treatment or hospice care – according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Researchers from the Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center assessed the cancer care received by elderly nursing home residents who were insured by Medicaid.

Using data from the Michigan Tumor Registry and Medicare records, they identified 1,907 nursing home residents diagnosed with cancer.

This patient data was then analysed by cancer stage at diagnosis, type of cancer, survival time, and whether the patient received surgery or hospice care, as well as other variables.

The researchers found 62 per cent of the residents with cancer had late or unstaged disease when they were diagnosed, and almost half died within three months of diagnosis.

Only 28 per cent of residents with late-stage cancer received hospice care and cancer patients aged over 86 were three times less likely to have surgery than those aged 71 to 75.

“An aging population, coupled with trends in cancer diagnosis and treatment, will shift more cancer care…to nursing homes and make investigations into the care of nursing home cancer patients particularly relevant,” the authors said.

“At present, nursing homes may be unequipped to recognise and care for their residents with cancer.”

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