Lack of access to transfusions limits hospice use by blood cancer patients

A new survey finds that doctors would refer more patients with incurable blood cancers to hospice for end-of-life care if they could receive transfusions, which are generally not available because of hospice reimbursement policies. The findings help explain why patients with leukemia, lymphoma, and other hematologic malignancies – blood cancers – are less likely to receive hospice care at the end of life than are patients with solid tumors.

Reporting in the journal Cancer, researchers from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute found that a majority of hematologic oncologists strongly agreed that hospice care has value for blood cancer patients; however, nearly half of the physicians in the survey felt home hospice is inadequate for their patients’ needs. Many patients with blood cancers need transfusions of red cells or platelets to control their symptoms, and most outpatient hospice settings don’t provide this service.

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