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Support Care Cancer. 2012 Dec;20(12):3335-41. doi: 10.1007/s00520-012-1477-9. Epub 2012 May 11.

Cancer patients' willingness to answer survey questions about life expectancy.

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  • 1Priority Research Centre for Health Behaviour, School of Medicine and Public Health, Faculty of Health, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales 2308, Australia.



This study aimed to determine the proportion and characteristics of radiation oncology outpatients who were willing to answer questions about their life expectancy.


A cross-sectional patient self-report survey was conducted using touch screen computers in Australian radiation oncology treatment centers. The primary outcome was the respondent's willingness to complete a survey subsection about life expectancy. Demographic and disease characteristics were also collected, and level of anxiety and depression was assessed using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.


Of the 469 oncology outpatients who completed the survey, 327 (70 %; 95 % CI, 65 %, 74 %) indicated that they were willing to answer questions about life expectancy. Being female (p < 0.001), older (p < 0.05), born in Asia (p < 0.05), and being diagnosed with cancer types other than breast and prostate cancer (p < 0.01) were associated with lower odds of answering life expectancy questions.


The opportunity to opt-out of survey questions about sensitive issues such as life expectancy is a feasible method for accessing important information about patient preferences while minimizing burden. Further research may be needed to improve acceptability of life expectancy research to some patient groups.

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