Age is not the crucial factor in determining how the palliative care needs of people who die from cancer differ from those of people who die from other causes

JM Addington-Hall*, S Karlsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


A belief that the hospice philosophy is particularly applicable to younger people may account in part for the continued focus of palliative care on cancer patients, as it has been argued that age is the crucial factor in determining how cancer and non-cancer patients differ. We conducted a secondary analysis of the data from a UK population-based retrospective survey, the Regional Study of Care for the Dying, to critically examine this proposition. The sample comprised 2062 cancer and 1471 non-cancer deaths. On average cancer patients were younger. However, at all ages non-cancer and cancer patients differed significantly with, for example, different patterns of dependency and symptomatology. The cause of death - rather than age - is therefore the principal difference between cancer and non-cancer patients. The debate within palliative care on whether and how to provide services for non-cancer patients must move beyond a focus on group differences such as age between these and cancer patients and focus instead on understanding the varying problems non-cancer patients experience, and addressing how best to organize palliative care services to meet the individual needs of these patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-19
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Palliative Care
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1999



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