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Factors influencing views of patients with gynecologic cancer about end-of-life decisions

      Abstract

      OBJECTIVE: This study was undertaken to assess the life views, practices, values, and aspirations of women with various stages of gynecologic cancer. STUDY DESIGN: A self-administered questionnaire was completed by 108 women with various stages of cancer and 39 women with benign gynecologic disease. The questionnaire included items on demographics in addition to 16 multiple choice and 4 true-false items. The four questions related to criteria of good care, degree of involvement in decision making, psychosocial well-being, religious experience, and aspirations form the basis of this study. The data were analyzed with the Pearson χ2 test (Systat, version 5.1) with significance set at p < 0.05. RESULTS: The women in this study placed greatest emphasis on receiving “straight talk” (96%) and compassion (64%) from their physicians. The newly diagnosed group put significantly less emphasis on compassion (33%, p = 0.037). Less than half expected their physicians to cure (43%, 56% for newly diagnosed) or contain (49%) the disease. For these women fear was the most dominant psychosocial consequence of having cancer, with difficulty communicating or feeling abandoned, isolated, or embarrassed less common. Those who specified their fears were afraid of pain (63% vs 39% for patients with benign disease, p = 0.019), dying (56%), losing control (48%), or becoming totally dependent (46%). Seventy-six percent indicated that religion had a serious place in their lives, with 49% becoming more religious since their cancer diagnosis, whereas no one became less religious. Ninety-three percent believed that the religious commitment helped sustain their hopes. CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that (1) physicians should aim to educate their patients sufficiently for them to exercise control over their experience, to allay their fears, and to make personal decisions that further their aspirations, (2) patients in different stages of disease varied in their perceptions of themselves and their aspirations, (3) patients are dealing with fear as a primary problem, and (4) women with gynecologic cancer depend on their religious convictions and experiences as they cope with the disease. (Am J Obstet Gynecol 1997;176:166-72.)

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