Intended for healthcare professionals


Should elderly patients be told they have cancer? Questionnaire survey of older people

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 17 November 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:1160
  1. A Ajaj, specialist registrar,
  2. M P Singh, senior house officer,
  3. A J J Abdulla, consultant physician (
  1. Department of Elderly Care, Mid-Staffordshire General Hospitals, Stafford ST18 3SA
  1. Correspondence to: Dr AJJ Abdulla, Department of Elderly Medicine, Orpington Hospital, Orpington, Kent BR6 9JU
  • Accepted 18 September 2001

There is evidence that doctors fail to inform patients when they diagnose cancer1-3 and that this is more likely in older people. Yet Meredith et al showed that 96% of 250 patients with malignancy wanted to know if their illness was cancer.4 Although it is now appreciated that patients want more information about their illness, few studies have specifically targeted elderly people to assess their opinions about cancer and how much they would wish to know about their diagnosis.

Patients and methods

We produced a questionnaire asking older people's views on how much they would want to know, if they were diagnosed with cancer, about the type of cancer, extent of spread, treatment, and prognosis and also their wishes about informing their families. …

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