Attitudes toward cancer. II: A comparative analysis of cancer patients, medical students, medical residents, physicians and cancer educators

Cancer. 1982 Sep 15;50(6):1218-23. doi: 10.1002/1097-0142(19820915)50:6<1218::aid-cncr2820500634>;2-a.


The current investigation was designed to determine how cancer patients, medical students, medical residents, nononcologically oriented physicians, and cancer educators differ with respect to attitudes towards cancer. A total of 372 individuals completed the Cancer Attitude Survey. Cancer educators displayed more confidence in the patient's ability to cope with diagnostic and prognostic information than students, other physicians, and patients themselves. Patients and cancer educators favored aggressive therapy to greater extent than other physicians, students, and alumni. Among nononcologic physicians and students there were significant effects of respondent's sex and prior personal experience with cancer on the attitudes expressed. Cancer educators differed significantly by specialty with surgical oncologists most likely to favor aggressive therapy. When compared to physician groups studied in the 1960s, our overall physician group (residents, cancer educators, and other physicians) was more likely to exhibit: (1) confidence in the patient's coping ability; (2) skepticism about the efficacy of early diagnosis and the value of aggressive treatment; and (3) stronger beliefs in the patient's ability to prepare for and accept death. Comparisons of our medical student group with students studied by Haley and his colleagues revealed a similar picture. Implications of these findings for the education of medical students are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Attitude to Death
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Physicians*
  • Students, Medical*