What do advanced cancer patients know of their disease? A report from Italy

Support Care Cancer. 1994 Jul;2(4):242-4. doi: 10.1007/BF00365729.


The aim of this work was to investigate the awareness of diagnosis, prognosis and meaning of palliative treatment in Italian patients with advanced, incurable cancers. A group of 100 patients, referred to a Medical Oncology facility, were interviewed. Only 38 patients were aware of the malignant neoplastic nature of their disease. The remaining patients believed they had a benign neoplasia, non-neoplastic disease, or were unable to define their illness. No patient had a correct idea of the poor prognosis of the disease. Only 11.5% of 87 patients receiving chemotherapy had a correct perception of the palliative intent of the treatment, while most believed that the chemotherapy was "preventive". Dissatisfaction with the information received was expressed by a minority of patients. The awareness of diagnosis was better among women and patients with a higher educational background. Withholding the truth from cancer patients still seems very common in Italy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Palliative Care
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Prognosis
  • Sex Factors
  • Truth Disclosure


  • Antineoplastic Agents