Giving honest information to patients with advanced cancer maintains hope

Oncology (Williston Park). 2010 May;24(6):521-5.


Background: Oncologists often do not give honest prognostic and treatment-effect information to patients with advanced disease. One of the primary reasons stated for witholding this information is to "not take away hope." We could find no study that tested if hope was influenced by honest clinical information.

Methods: We tested decision-aids in 27 patients with advanced cancer who were facing first-, second-, third-, and fourth-line chemotherapy. These aids had printed estimates of treatment effect and the patient's chance of survival and being cured (always zero). We measured hope using the Herth Hope Index, which ranks patients' responses to 12 questions and yields a maximum score of 48.

Results: The scores on the Herth Hope Index did not change and the patients remained uniformly hopeful about their future. The pretest score was 44.2 (SD 3.9), and it increased to 44.8 (SD 3.86; P = .55 by paired Student's t-test).

Conclusion: Hope is maintained when patients with advanced cancer are given truthful prognostic and treatment information, even when the news is bad.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Prognosis
  • Quality of Life
  • Truth Disclosure*