03 November 2017

Perceptions of treatment risk and the likelihood of a cure among people with leukaemia differ hugely from the views of doctors, according to a new study.

Dr Areej El-Jawahri of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, USA, and colleagues investigated these perceptions using a group of 100 mostly older people with acute myeloid leukaemia, who were receiving treatment. Half of the patients were receiving intensive care involving hospitalisation and half were receiving non-intensive care.

They were given a questionnaire within three days of starting treatment measuring their perceived likelihood of dying from the treatment, and another a month later on their perceptions of prognosis. By this time they had usually been told the exact type and stage of cancer.

Results showed that patient and physician perceptions of treatment risk and the likelihood of a cure varied widely, with patients tending to overestimate both the risk of dying due to treatment and the likelihood of a cure.

About 63% of patients in both groups thought it was somewhat likely they would die during treatment - whereas 80% of their oncologists thought it was very unlikely.

On the second questionnaire, 90% of patients thought it was somewhat or very likely they would be cured, but 74% of their oncologists thought it was unlikely or very unlikely. Full details were presented on Saturday 28 October at the 2017 Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology Symposium in San Diego, California.

Dr El-Jawahri says: "Patients with acute myeloid leukaemia face very challenging treatment decisions that are often placed upon them within days after being diagnosed. Because they face a grave decision, they need to understand what the risks of treatment are versus the possibility of a cure. "Clearly there are important communication gaps between oncologists and their patients."

Source:  J Clin Oncol 35, 2017 (suppl 31S; abstract 43)

Link: http://abstracts.asco.org/200/AbstView_200_197735.html

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