The purpose of this study was to assess the use of hospice by women dying with breast cancer as a function of time period, geographic area, and patient characteristics. We used data from the linked Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare database to study hospice care use in the United States in women aged 65 and older, diagnosed with breast cancer from 1986 to 1996, who died from 1991 to 1996. Of the 25,161 women who met those criteria, 5,198 (20.7%) were enrolled in hospice before they died. The rate of hospice use in this population increased from 11.5% in 1991 to 27.1% in 1996. Use of hospice care was inversely related to age and was higher among those who were married. There were no differences in use by ethnicity. Rates of use varied significantly by geographic area. Future research should further examine why rates of hospice use differ by geographic area and certain patient characteristics.
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