Strang P, Hedman C, Adlitzer H, Schultz T
Acta Oncologica - (-) 1-6 [2021-06-08; online 2021-06-08]
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused excess deaths (all causes) and has disproportionately affected the elderly with certain characteristics. To study how COVID-19 affected cancer deaths regarding age, sex, socio-economic status, comorbidities, and access to palliative care. An additional objective was to study changes in place of care and death. A descriptive, retrospective study of all cancer patients who died during March-May 2020 in the Stockholm region, n = 1467 of which 278 died with a COVID-19 diagnosis, compared with deaths in 2016-2019. The Stockholm Regional Council's central data warehouse was used. T-tests, 95% CI, Wilcoxon and chi-squared tests were used for comparisons. There were excess cancer deaths compared with 2016-2019 ( p < 0.001) and patients dying with a COVID-19 diagnosis were older (79.7 vs. 75.9 years, p < 0.0001), more often male (67% vs. 55%, p < 0.0001), and had more comorbidities (Charlson Comorbidity Index 1.6 vs. 1.1, p < 0.0001). Patients with COVID-19 more seldom had access to palliative care (34% vs. 59%, p = 0.008), had more changes in place of care during the last two weeks of life (p < 0.0001) and died more often in acute hospitals (34% vs. 14%, p < 0.0001). For the subgroup with access to palliative care, the hospital deaths for individuals with and without a COVID-19 diagnosis were 11% and 4%, respectively (p = 0.008). Cancer patients dying with a COVID-19 diagnosis were older, more often male, and had more comorbidities. A COVID-19 diagnosis negatively affected the probability of being admitted to specialized palliative care and increased the likelihood of dying in an acute hospital.