To estimate whether and when children dying from a malignancy are recognized as being beyond cure and to study patterns of care the last weeks of life.
A nationwide retrospective medical record review was conducted. Medical records of 95 children (60% of eligible children) who died from a malignancy 2007-2009 in Sweden were studied.
Eighty-three children (87%) were treated without curative intent at the time of death. Children with haematological malignancies were less likely to be recognized as being beyond cure than children with brain tumours [relative risks (RR) 0.7; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.6-0.9] or solid tumours (RR 0.8; 0.6-1.0). The transition to noncurative care varied from the last day of life to over four years prior to death (median 60 days). Children with haematological malignancies were treated with a curative intent closer to death and were also given chemotherapy (RR 5.5; 1.3-22.9), transfusions (RR 2.0; 1.0-4.0) and antibiotics (RR 5.3; 1.8-15.5) more frequently than children with brain tumours the last weeks of life.
The majority of children dying from a malignancy were treated with noncurative intent at the time of death. The timing of a transition in care varied with the diagnoses, being closer to death in children with haematological malignancies.