Cancer patients' desires for communication of prognosis information

Health Commun. 2002;14(2):221-41. doi: 10.1207/S15327027HC1402_4.


A mail survey was sent to cancer patients to determine how often they want, request, and receive a qualitativeprognosis (i.e., will they die from the disease?) and a quantitative estimate (how long they will survive). The survey included measures of social and psychological characteristics that were hypothesized to be associated with their desire for and willingness to request prognosis information (N = 352). Major findings are as follows: (a) Whereas about 80% of patients wanted a qualitative prognosis, only about one half wanted a quantitative one; (b) over 90% of those who wanted a qualitative prognosis were given one, but only about one half of those who wanted a quantitative prognosis were given one; and (c) about 15% ofthose who wanted a qualitative prognosis failed to ask for it, and over one third of those who wanted a quantitative prognosis failed to ask for it. Multivariate analyses indicate that the effects of education on wanting, asking for, and receiving prognosis information are slight, and the effects of sex are essentially nil. Older people were significantly less likely to request and to be given prognosis information. Those who had greater anxiety and who needed to avoid thinking about death wanted, requested, and received significantly less information. Fear had significant nonlinear effects on desire, request, and receipt of quantitative information. Those whose prognosis was worse were less likely to want, ask for, and receive quantitative information. Those least likely to want, request, and be given qualitative information were those who combined a bad prognosis with a need to avoid thinking about death.

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Data Collection
  • Humans
  • Michigan
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Prognosis
  • Truth Disclosure*