Giving honest information to patients with advanced cancer maintains hope

Thomas J. Smith, Lindsay A. Dow, Enid Virago, James Khatcheressian, Laurel J. Lyckholm, Robin Matsuyama

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Background: Oncologists often do not give honest prognostic and treatment-effect information to patients with advanced disease. One of the primary reasons stated for witholding this information is to not take away hope. We could find no study that tested if hope was influenced by honest clinical information. Methods: We tested decision-aids in 27 patients with advanced cancer who were facing first-, second-, third-, and fourth-line chemotherapy. These aids had printed estimates of treatment effect and the patients chance of survival and being cured (always zero). We measured hope using the Herth Hope Index, which ranks patients responses to 12 questions and yields a maximum score of 48. Results: The scores on the Herth Hope Index did not change and the patients remained uniformly hopeful about their future. The pretest score was 44.2 (SD 3.9), and it increased to 44.8 (SD 3.86; P =.55 by paired Students t-test). Conclusion: Hope is maintained when patients with advanced cancer are given truthful prognostic and treatment information, even when the news is bad.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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