Clinical Topics & News

Trends in Palliative Care Utilization and Facility Type for Stage IV Esophageal Cancer: A National Cancer Database Analysis



Palliative Care (PC) addresses quality of life and patient satisfaction with care. Recognized as a board-certified subspeciality in 2006, the utilization and implementation of PC has been evolving. Stage IV esophageal cancer has a 5-year survival rate of 15% to 20%, making it a good candidate for PC. This study aims to look at trends in PC interventions and facility type.


This study looked at 8808 patients with stage IV esophageal cancer who received PC interventions from 2004 to 2018 in the National Cancer Database (NCDB). The NCDB codes 4 different kinds of PC: surgical, radiation, chemotherapy/hormone therapy, and pain management. All PC interventions function to “alleviate symptoms, but no attempt to diagnose, stage, or treat the primary tumor is made.” Data was grouped into 5-year time increments: 2004- 2008 (time 1), 2009-2013 (time 2), 2014-2018 (time 3). Exclusion criteria was concurrent tumors and missing data. Cross tabulation analysis was performed using Pearson chi-square and ANOVA tests.


For all PC interventions, 9.0% were surgical, 42.5% radiation, 41.1% chemotherapy, and 7.4% pain management. Surgical interventions decreased over time, indicated by interventions administered at times 1 (n = 360), 2 (n = 228), and 3 (n = 200). Radiation PC utilization remained nearly constant (n = 1157, n = 1147, n = 1397) over the same time increments. Chemotherapy/hormone therapy and pain management increased over time, indicated by interventions administered at times 1 (n = 713), 2 (n = 1053), and 3 (n = 1795) and times 1 (n = 129) 2 (n = 224), and 3 (n = 291), respectively. For surgical PC, facility type shifted from academic institutions, occurring 45% of all cases in time 1 to 30% by time 3. Radiation PC remained constant with a slight predominance of comprehensive cancer community facilities. Chemotherapy/hormone therapy PC facility type also remained constant, with a slight preference for comprehensive cancer community facilities. Pain management shifted from a predominance of academic/research facilities in time 1 (38.0%) to comprehensive cancer community facilities by time 3 (38.1%).


Radiation, chemotherapy/hormone therapy, and pain management have been growing in utilization, while there has been a downtrend in surgical PC. All PC interventions (besides surgery) have been increasing across all facility locations, with PC predominantly being implemented in community cancer programs.

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