A Pilot Trial of Decision Aids to Give Truthful Prognostic and Treatment Information to Chemotherapy Patients with Advanced Cancer

Massey Cancer Center of Virginia Commonwealth University, School of Education, VCU School of Medicine, Department of Social and Behavioral Health, and the Virginia Cancer Institute, Richmond, Virginia 23298-0230, USA.
The journal of supportive oncology 03/2011; 9(2):79-86. DOI: 10.1016/j.suponc.2010.12.005
Source: PubMed


Most cancer patients do not have an explicit discussion about prognosis and treatment despite documented adverse outcomes. Few decision aids have been developed to assist the difficult discussions of palliative management. We developed decision aids for people with advanced in curable breast, colorectal, lung, and hormone-refractory prostate cancers facing first-, second-, third-, and fourth-line chemotherapy. We recruited patients from our urban oncology clinic after gaining the permission of their treating oncologist. We measured knowledge of curability and treatment benefit before and after the intervention. Twenty-six of 27 (96%) patients completed the aids, with ameanage of 63, 56% female, 56% married, 56% African American, and 67% with a high school education or more. Most patients (14/27, 52%) thought a person with their advanced cancer could be cured, which was reduced (to 8/26, 31%, P = 0.15) after the decision aid. Nearly all overestimated the effect of palliative chemotherapy. No distress was noted, and hope did not change. The majority (20/27, 74%) found the information helpful to them, and almost all (25/27, 93%) wanted to share the information with their family and physicians. It is possible to give incurable patients their prognosis, treatment options, and options for improving end-of-life care without causing distress or lack of hope. Almost all find the information helpful and want to share it with doctors and family. Research is needed to test the findings in a larger sample and measure the outcomes of truthful information on quality of life, quality of care, and costs.

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