BACKGROUND: Guidelines recommend an early access to specialised palliative medicine services for patients with cancer, but studies have reported a continued underuse. Palliative care facilities deliver early care, alongside antineoplastic treatments, whereas hospice care structures intervene lately, when cancer-modifying treatments stop.
AIM: This review identified factors associated with early and late interventions of specialised services, by considering the type of structures studied (palliative vs hospice care).
DESIGN: We performed a systematic review, prospectively registered on PROSPERO (ID: CRD42018110063).
DATA SOURCES: We searched Medline and Scopus databases for population-based studies. Two independent reviewers extracted the data and assessed the study quality using Joanna Briggs Institute critical appraisal checklists.
RESULTS: The 51 included articles performed 67 analyses. Most were based on retrospective cohorts and US populations. The median quality scores were 19/22 for cohorts and 15/16 for cross-sectional studies. Most analyses focused on hospice care (n=37). Older patients, men, people with haematological cancer or treated in small centres had less specialised interventions. Palliative and hospice facilities addressed different populations. Older patients received less palliative care but more hospice care. Patients with high-stage tumours had more palliative care while women and patients with a low comorbidity burden received more hospice care.
CONCLUSION: Main disparities concerned older patients, men and people with haematological cancer. We highlighted the challenges of early interventions for older patients and of late deliveries for men and highly comorbid patients. Additional data on non-American populations, outpatients and factors related to quality of life and socioeconomic status are needed.