African-American and Hispanic patients with ovarian cancer in Texas were more likely than Caucasian patients to suffer invasive or toxic treatment and to be admitted to the ICU in their final month of life, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.1

“We found being a minority was associated with receiving intensive and invasive end-of-life care among patients with ovarian cancer,” reported lead study author Jolyn S. Taylor, MD, MPH, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and colleagues. “[I]rrespective of other sociodemographic factors, patients of black or Hispanic racial and ethnic backgrounds were less likely to meet end-of-life quality-care metrics.”

The authors analyzed data from the Texas Cancer Registry and Medicare to assess the treatments administered to 3666 patients with ovarian cancer who died between 2000 and 2012. Seventy-seven percent of the patients were Caucasian, 15% were Hispanic, and 7% were African-American. (One percent of patients were classified as “other.”) Only patients who had received 13 months of Medicare coverage before death were included in the analysis.

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Most (72%) patients had been enrolled in hospice but only 64% were still enrolled when they died, the study team noted. Median enrollment was 20 days.

“In the final 30 days of life, 381 (10%) had more than one ER visit, 505 (14%) more than one hospital admission, 593 (16%) ICU admission, 848 (23%) invasive care, and 418 (11%) life-extending care,” the authors reported.

Ten percent (357 patients) received chemotherapy during the final 2 weeks of life.

Ethnic and racial disparities in end-of-life care remained statistically significant in multivariate analyses adjusting for year and age at death, tumor stage, comorbidity index, income and education level, and location of residence. Race and ethnicity correlated more strongly with outcomes than income, education, or geography.

“Several outcomes differed for minorities compared to white patients,” the authors concluded. “Hispanic and black patients were less likely to enroll and die in hospice (black odds ratio [OR] 0.66; 95% CI: 0.50-0.88; P = .004; Hispanic OR 0.76; 95% CI: 0.61-0.94; P = .01.”

Hispanic patients were also more frequently admitted to the ICU (OR 1.37; 95% CI: 1.05-1.78; P = .02), while African-American patients more frequently received multiple ER visits or underwent life-extending procedures (ORs 2.20 and 2.13, respectively; P < .001 for each).

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The findings show that “important disparities in use of end-of-life care persist among racial and ethnic minorities,” the authors concluded.


  1. Taylor JS, Rajan SS, Zhang N, et al. End-of-life racial and ethnic disparities among patients with ovarian cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2017 Apr 7. doi:10.1200/JCO.2016.70.2894 [Epub ahead of print]