Lung Cancer Patients Need More Help In Making Treatment Choices

September 18, 1998

(Preferences for chemotherapy in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer: descriptive study based on scripted interviews)

Little is known about how lung cancer patients value the potential benefits and risks of chemotherapy. In this week's BMJ Professor Gerard Silvestri from the Medical University of South Carolina and colleagues report that some patients with lung cancer may not be getting the treatment they would choose if they were fully informed.

In their survey of 81 patients who had received chemotherapy treatment, several people said that they would choose chemotherapy if it would increase their survival by as little as a week, whereas others say they would not choose this option, even if it meant they would live for another two years. The majority of those interviewed claimed that if undergoing chemotherapy would prolong their life by three months, they would only take this option if it could improve their quality of life for this period. Most patients would want considerably more time than chemotherapy could currently provide.

Patients previously treated with chemotherapy vary considerably in their attitudes towards this highly toxic treatment and the authors conclude that choosing the proper treatment for cancer patients requires that they are fully aware of the merits of chemotherapy. Their results suggest that currently some patients may not be getting what they want.

Contact: Gerard Silvestri, Associate Professor of Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston USA
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BMJ

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