Nearly half of patients with advanced cancer around the world believe they will be cured, with the perception of curability significantly differing by education, performance status, and country of origin, according to a study presented at the 2016 Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium.1

Because there has been limited research on the understanding of the illness and perception of cure among patients with cancer receiving palliative care, researchers sought to determine the frequency and factors associated with perceptions of curability in countries across the world.

For the study, investigators surveyed 1390 patients with advanced cancer from countries in North and South Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia using an Understand of Illness questionnaire. Median age was 58 years, 59% were married, 47% were Catholic, and 36.2% were college-educated or possessed a higher degree.

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Results showed that 49% of respondents reported that their cancer is curable, 60% believed that the goal of therapy was to “get rid of their cancer,” and 79% perceived that the goal of therapy was to “make them feel better.” Nearly two-thirds believed they were relatively healthy.

Researchers found that patients from Brazil, France, and South Africa were less likely to have a perception of curability, while those from the Philippines and Jordan were more likely to believe their cancer could be cured.

The study further demonstrated that better Karnofsky performance status and higher education were significantly associated with a lower likelihood of perceiving curability. Age, gender, marital status, passive decision control preferences, and religion were not significantly associated with curability perception.

The findings suggest that further evaluation is needed to develop interventions to reduce misperceptions of curability early as part of palliative care.


1. Yennu S, Shamieh OM, Rodrigues LF, et al. Perception of curability in an international cohort of advanced cancer patients receiving palliative care. Poster presented at: 2016 Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium; September 9-10, 2016; San Francisco, CA.