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Cancer. 2004 Mar 15;100(6):1276-82.

Optimism and survival in lung carcinoma patients.

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Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.



It is popular belief that the psychologic response to a diagnosis of cancer influences survival in patients with cancer; however, research has produced contradictory results. In this prospective study, the authors investigated the relation between pretreatment levels of optimism and survival in patients with nonsmall cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC).


Two hundred four patients who were participating in a randomized trial that compared accelerated and conventional radiotherapy with and without carboplatin chemotherapy were asked to complete two questionnaires assessing optimism. The first assessment was just prior to commencing treatment and the second assessment took place after completing treatment. Survival was measured from the date of randomization to the date of death. Surviving patients were followed until February 8, 2001.


The pretreatment questionnaire was completed by 179 patients, and 148 of those patients completed the posttreatment questionnaire. There was a small but significant reduction in optimism scores after treatment (P = 0.005). There was no association noted between pretreatment optimism and progression-free survival (P = 0.52, unadjusted; P = 0.22, adjusted for Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status and patient age), nor was there an association noted between pretreatment optimism and overall survival (P = 0.36, unadjusted; P = 0.19, adjusted for disease stage).


There was no evidence that a high level of optimism prior to treatment enhanced survival in patients with NSCLC. Encouraging patients to "be positive" only may add to the burden of having cancer while providing little benefit, at least in patients with NSCLC.

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