Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 242–244

What do advanced cancer patients know of their disease?

A report from Italy


  • Paolo Pronzato
    • U.O. Oncologia MedicaOspedale S. Andrea
  • Gianfilippo Bertelli
    • Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro
  • Pierluigi Losardo
    • U.O. Oncologia MedicaOspedale S. Andrea
  • Marco Landucci
    • U.O. Oncologia MedicaOspedale S. Andrea
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/BF00365729

Cite this article as:
Pronzato, P., Bertelli, G., Losardo, P. et al. Support Care Cancer (1994) 2: 242. 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. Witholding the truth from cancer patients still seems very common in Italy.

Key words

Cancer diagnosisDisclosureInformaed consentQuality of careTruth telling

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994