Advance care planning in advanced cancer: can it be achieved? An exploratory randomized patient preference trial of a care planning discussion

Palliat Support Care. 2011 Mar;9(1):3-13. doi: 10.1017/S1478951510000490.


Objective: Little is known about the effectiveness of advance care planning in the United Kingdom, although policy documents recommend that it should be available to all those with life-limiting illness.

Method: An exploratory patient preference randomized controlled trial of advance care planning discussions with an independent mediator (maximum three sessions) was conducted in London outpatient oncology clinics and a nearby hospice. Seventy-seven patients (mean age 62 years, 39 male) with various forms of recurrent progressive cancer participated, and 68 (88%) completed follow-up at 8 weeks. Patients completed visual analogue scales assessing perceived ability to discuss end-of-life planning with healthcare professionals or family and friends (primary outcome), happiness with the level of communication, and satisfaction with care, as well as a standardized measure of anxiety and depression.

Results: Thirty-eight patients (51%) showed preference for the intervention. Discussions with professionals or family and friends about the future increased in the intervention arms, whether randomized or preference, but happiness with communication was unchanged or worse, and satisfaction with services decreased. Trial participation did not cause significant anxiety or depression and attrition was low.

Significance of results: A randomized trial of advance care planning is possible. This study provides new evidence on its acceptability and effectiveness for patients with advanced cancer.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Advance Care Planning*
  • Communication
  • Female
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • London
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Patient Preference*
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • State Medicine
  • United Kingdom