Advanced cancer patients' reported wishes at the end of life: a randomized controlled trial

Support Care Cancer. 2016 Oct;24(10):4273-81. doi: 10.1007/s00520-016-3260-9. Epub 2016 May 10.


Context: Conversations about end-of-life (EOL) wishes are challenging for many clinicians. The Go Wish card game (GWG) was developed to facilitate these conversations. Little is known about the type and consistency of EOL wishes using the GWG in advanced cancer patients.

Methods: We conducted a randomized controlled trial to assess the EOL wishes of 100 patients with advanced cancer treated at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The purpose of this study was to determine the EOL wishes of patients with advanced cancer and to compare patients' preference between the GWG and List of wishes/statements (LOS) containing the same number of items. Patients were randomized into four groups and completed either the GWG or a checklist of 35 LOS and one opened statement found on the GWG cards; patients were asked to categorize these wishes as very, somewhat, or not important. After 4-24 h, the patients were asked to complete the same or other test. Group A (n = 25) received LOS-LOS, group B (n = 25) received GWG-GWG, group C (n = 26) received GWG-LOS, and group D (n = 24) received LOS-GWG. All patients completed the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) for adults before and after the first test.

Results: Median age (interquartile range = IQR): 56 (27-83) years. Age, sex, ethnicity, marital status, religion, education, and cancer diagnosis did not differ significantly among the four groups. All patients were able to complete the GWG and/or LOS. The ten most common wishes identified as very important by patients in the first and second test were to be at peace with God (74 vs. 71 %); to pray (62 vs. 61 %); and to have family present (57 vs. 61 %). to be free from pain (54 vs. 60 %); not being a burden to my family (48 vs. 49 %); to trust my doctor (44 vs. 45 %); to keep my sense of humor (41 vs. 45 %); to say goodbye to important people in my life (41 vs. 37 %); to have my family prepared for my death (40 vs. 49 %); and to be able to help others (36 vs. 31 %). There was significant association among the frequency of responses of the study groups. Of the 50 patients exposed to both tests, 43 (86 %) agreed that the GWG instructions were clear, 45 (90 %) agreed that the GWG was easy to understand, 31 (62 %) preferred the GWG, 39 (78 %) agreed that the GWG did not increase their anxiety and 31 (62 %) agreed that having conversations about EOL priorities was beneficial. The median STAI score after GWG was 48 (interquartile range, 39-59) vs. 47 (interquartile range, 27-63) after LOS (p = 0.2952).

Conclusion: Patients with advanced cancer assigned high importance to spirituality and the presence/relationships of family, and these wishes were consistent over the two tests. The GWG did not worsen anxiety.

Keywords: Advanced cancer; Communication; Wishes at end of life.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Communication
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Patient Preference / psychology*
  • Spirituality
  • Terminal Care / methods*