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Ann Oncol. 2016 Mar;27(3):513-9. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdv614. Epub 2015 Dec 17.

Is it possible to encourage hope in non-advanced cancer patients? We must try.

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Supportive Care in Cancer Unit, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milano, Italy
ISPO Cancer Prevention and Research Institute, Florence, Italy.
Supportive Care in Cancer Unit, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milano, Italy.
Department of Psychology, University of Chester, Chester, UK.



Data are lacking on the relationship between hope and other variables in non-advanced cancer patients. The study explored the relationship between hope, symptoms, needs, and spirituality/religiosity in patients treated in a supportive care unit (SCU).


From September 2013 to March 2014, the consecutive patients who accepted to complete: (i) Needs Evaluation Questionnaire (NEQ), (ii) the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS), (iii) Hope Herth Index (HHI), and (iv) the System of Belief Inventory (SBI) were enrolled. Moreover, clinical/demographic data were collected and the findings were analyzed.


A total of 276 patients who completed the HHI questionnaire (participation rate 276/300 = 92%) were included; 131 reported HHI total score >37 (median value). The majority of patients had a Karnofsky performance status >80; 71% were on cancer therapies, and only 29 patients had metastases or relapse. Patients with higher HHI scores were less educated (P = 0.012), reported lower ESAS total score (15.4 versus 22.6, P < 0.001), and had less often been referred to a psychologist previously to the study (P = 0.002); patients with a higher HHI score also reported higher spirituality (P < 0.001). Some NEQ items resulted significantly associated with HHI score after adjustment for other variables: the need to have sincere clinicians (β = -2.7), better dialogue (β = -2.1), and more reassurance from the clinicians (β = -2.5); better attention (β = -4.4) and respect for intimacy (β = -3.3) from nurses; to speak with people who have the same illness experience (β = -2.5), to be more reassured by relatives (β = -3.3) and to feel less abandoned (β = -4.3). Higher SBI scores were independently associated with higher HHI scores (β = 1.7 for 10 points increase).


In cancer patients, hope can be encouraged by clinicians through dialogue, sincerity, and reassurance, as well as assessing and considering the patients' needs (above all the psycho-emotional), symptoms, psychological frailty, and their spiritual/religious resources.


hope; needs; spirituality/religiousness; supportive care; symptoms

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