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Support Care Cancer. 2012 Nov;20(11):2729-36.

Advance directives: prevalence and attitudes of cancer patients receiving radiotherapy.

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  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, Interdisciplinary Center of Palliative Care, University of Würzburg, Josef-Schneider-Str. 2, 97070 Würzburg, Germany.



Advance directives (AD) are becoming increasingly widespread. We examine the prevalence of AD and the factors associated with AD in tumor patients during radiotherapy.


A standardized questionnaire was handed out to all tumor patients on 9 random days with an interval of at least 12 weeks. The data were analyzed in a bivariate and multivariate way.


Of 1,208 questionnaires, 658 were completed and returned (54.5%). Of respondents, 23.6% had already signed an AD, 53.3% thought they were likely to sign an AD, 9.0% did not want to sign an AD, and 4.9% were not familiar with advance directives. Patients who have signed an AD and those who are likely to sign one think that ADs facilitate the physician's decision-making process (97.7% cf. 94.5%) and that they ease the burden on relatives (98.5% cf. 98.8%). Regardless of an AD having been signed, every second respondent was of the opinion that AD facilitates consultations rather than serving as a directive (55.1% cf. 57.3%). Patients likely to sign an AD are significantly younger compared to those unlikely to do so and have suffered from their tumor disease for a shorter period of time.


Of advance directives is widely accepted among the tumor patients surveyed. Advanced directives are not exclusively seen as instruments for surrogate decision making, but also as mediums to improve communication. Training of physicians and additional offers for patients could increase the actual number of ADs and perhaps improve physicians and relatives understanding of patients needs and wishes.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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