Late cancer diagnosis in Northern Ireland contributes to hospital deaths despite patient's preference to die at home according to a major report launched at Queen's University Belfast.
The study conducted by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry and funded by the Ulster Cancer Foundation found that while patients who die in hospital with cancer are very ill, late diagnosis of their cancer is a major factor in hospital cancer deaths here.
This is the first ever study in Northern Ireland specifically investigating why cancer patients die in acute hospitals.
Over half of patients recorded preferred to die at home, yet in Northern Ireland the majority (45 percent) of cancers deaths occurred in hospital and only a third of patients died at home (12.5 percent die in hospices and 8 percent in nursing/residential or care homes).
Why Cancer Patients Die in Acute Hospitals examined patient hospital records for 695 cancer patients who died in hospital in the last six months of 2007.
It investigated the time from diagnosis to death as well as the preferred place of death in comparison with actual place of death.
The report found the following:
Dr Anna Gavin, Director of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry said: "The findings of this study are significant as they identify the good work that is ongoing in palliative care but also highlights areas in need of improvement. The report highlights a need to address the problem of late diagnosis of cancer. N. Ireland is one of 12 areas working in a major international benchmarking project to determine reasons for late cancer diagnosis with the aim of improving survival to this end and a population survey on cancer awareness is due to take place here in May/June."
Roisin Foster, Chief Executive of the Ulster Cancer Foundation said: "The Ulster Cancer Foundation is very pleased to have been able to fund this research by the NI Cancer Registry. Its findings have the potential to promote earlier diagnosis of cancer among older people. It also points to improvements in community services that would enable more people have their final wish to die at home honoured. This research was funded by donations from the Northern Ireland public. Our supporters can be assured that their generosity is making a real difference now and in the future"
For more information go to www.qub.ac.uk/research-centers/nicr/
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