Communicating cancer diagnosis and prognosis: When the target is the elderly patient-a GIOGer study

Lazzaro Repetto, Pierluca Piselli, Mimma Raffaele, Carola Locatelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Effective communication to cancer patients allows better emotional response to diagnosis, coping with health professionals and compliance to treatment. We lack specific studies on patterns of clinical communication in elderly patients, their involvement in decision making and the role of their families. Patients and methods: Structured interviews to collect information on diagnosis and prognosis disclosure, satisfaction with information, compliance to disease experience and willingness toward receiving more information and coping, were administered to patients age 65 years and older and receiving chemotherapy. Results: Six hundred and twenty two patients completed the interviews and were evaluated. Four hundred and twelve (66.2%) were informed, 210 (33.8%) were not informed. Information was associated with age, degree of education, geographical area, ECOG-PS, tumour site and family composition and the patient's perception of being supported in the disease experience. The majority of the patients consider their families as the main source of support in the disease experience (86.5%), wish to have a family member participating in oncology consultation (79.1%) and consider the information received complete and understandable or clear and reassuring (80%). Receiving adequate information facilitates a better patient-health professional relationship for 84.8% of the patients. 63% of the patients dealt positively with cancer and 62.2% showed positive expectations for the future. Informed patients refer better expectation than those not informed. Conclusion: Our study underlines the importance of clinical information for older cancer patients and the need to involve family members in the processes of diagnosis and prognosis disclosure and decision making. Health professionals must consider specific age-related issues including social, cultural and emotional aspects and understand the role that the family members play in the disease experience of elderly patients. Competent caring for elderly cancer patients must provide adequate information and emotional support not only to the patients but also to their family to assure appropriateness of care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)374-383
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009


  • Cancer in the elderly
  • Communication
  • Diagnosis and prognosis disclosure
  • Elderly patient

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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