Information giving and decision-making in patients with advanced cancer: a systematic review

Soc Sci Med. 2005 Nov;61(10):2252-64. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.04.015.


Patients with advanced, non-curable cancer face difficult decisions on further treatment, where a small increase in survival time must be balanced against the toxicity of the treatment. If patients want to be involved in these decisions, in keeping with current notions of autonomy and empowerment, they also require to be adequately informed both on the treatments proposed and on their own disease status and prognosis. A systematic review was performed on decision-making and information provision in patients with advanced cancer. Studies of interventions to improve information giving and encourage participation in decision-making were reviewed, including both randomised controlled trials and uncontrolled studies. Almost all patients expressed a desire for full information, but only about two-thirds wished to participate actively in decision-making. Higher educational level, younger age and female sex were predictive of a desire to participate in decision-making. Active decision-making was more common in patients with certain cancers (e.g. breast) than others (e.g. prostate). A number of simple interventions including question prompt sheets, audio-taping of consultations and patient decision aids have been shown to facilitate such involvement.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Patient Participation / psychology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors