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Chetna Malhotra, Rahul Malhotra, Filipinas Bundoc, Irene Teo, Semra Ozdemir, Noreen Chan, and Eric Finkelstein

Background: Reducing suffering at the end of life is important. Doing so requires a comprehensive understanding of the course of suffering for patients with cancer during their last year of life. This study describes trajectories of psychological, spiritual, physical, and functional suffering in the last year of life among patients with a solid metastatic cancer. Patients and Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study of 600 patients with a solid metastatic cancer between July 2016 and December 2019 in Singapore. We assessed patients’ psychological, spiritual, physical, and functional suffering every 3 months until death. Data from the last year of life of 345 decedents were analyzed. We used group-based multitrajectory modeling to delineate trajectories of suffering during the last year of a patient’s life. Results: We identified 5 trajectories representing suffering: (1) persistently low (47% of the sample); (2) slowly increasing (14%); (3) predominantly spiritual (21%); (4) rapidly increasing (12%); and (5) persistently high (6%). Compared with patients with primary or less education, those with secondary (high school) (odds ratio [OR], 3.49; 95% CI, 1.05–11.59) education were more likely to have rapidly increasing versus persistently low suffering. In multivariable models adjusting for potential confounders, compared with patients with persistently low suffering, those with rapidly increasing suffering had more hospital admissions (β=0.24; 95% CI, 0.00–0.47) and hospital days (β=0.40; 95% CI, 0.04–0.75) during the last year of life. Those with persistently high suffering had more hospital days (β=0.70; 95% CI, 0.23–1.17). Conclusions: The course of suffering during the last year of life among patients with cancer is variable and related to patients’ hospitalizations. Understanding this variation can facilitate clinical decisions to minimize suffering and reduce healthcare costs at the end of life.

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Chetna Malhotra, Ling En Koh, Irene Teo, Semra Ozdemir, Isha Chaudhry, and Eric Finkelstein

Background: Advance care planning (ACP) involves documentation of patients’ preferred place of death (PoD). This assumes that patients’ preferred PoD will not change over time; yet, evidence for this is inconclusive. We aimed to assess the extent and correlates of change in patients’ preferred PoD over time. Materials and Methods: Using data from a cohort study of patients with advanced cancer in Singapore, we analyzed preferred PoD (home vs institution including hospital, hospice, and nursing home vs unclear) among 466 patients every 6 months for a period of 2 years. At each time point, we assessed the proportion of patients who changed their preferred PoD from the previous time point. Using a multinomial logistic regression model, we assessed patient factors (demographics, understanding of disease stage, ACP, recent hospitalization, quality of life, symptom burden, psychologic distress, financial difficulty, prognosis) associated with change in their preferred PoD. Results: More than 25% of patients changed their preferred PoD every 6 months, with no clear trend in change toward home or institution. Patients psychologically distressed at the time of the survey had increased likelihood of changing their preferred PoD to home (relative risk ratio [RRR], 1.02; 95% CI, 1.00–1.05) and to an institution (RRR, 1.06; 95% CI, 1.02–1.10) relative to no change in preference. Patients hospitalized in the past 6 months were more likely to change their preferred PoD to home (RRR, 1.56; 95% CI, 1.07–2.29) and less likely to change to an institution (RRR, 0.50; 95% CI, 0.28–0.88) relative to no change in preference. Conclusions: The present study provides evidence of instability in the preferred PoD of patients with advanced cancer. ACP documents need to be updated regularly to ensure they accurately reflect patients’ current preference.