Advanced Cancer Patients' Changes in Accurate Prognostic Understanding and Their Psychological Well-Being

Login S. George, Paul K. Maciejewski, Andrew S. Epstein, Megan Shen, Holly G. Prigerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Context: Clinicians often worry that patients' recognition of the terminal nature of their illness may impair psychological well-being. Objectives: To determine if such recognition was associated with decrements to psychological well-being that persisted over time. Methods: About 87 patients with advanced cancer, with an oncologist-expected life expectancy of less than six months, were assessed before and after an oncology visit to discuss cancer restaging scan results and again at follow-up (median time between assessments, approximately six weeks). Prognostic understanding (PU) was assessed at previsit and postvisit, and a change score was computed. Psychological well-being was assessed at pre, post, and follow-up, and two change scores were computed (post minus pre; follow-up minus post). Results: Changes toward more accurate PU was associated with a corresponding initial decline in psychological well-being (r = −0.33; P < 0.01) but thereafter was associated with subsequent improvements (r = 0.40; P < 0.001). This pattern remained controlling for potential confounds. Patients showed different patterns of psychological well-being change (F = 3.07, P = 0.05; F = 6.54, P < 0.01): among patients with improved PU accuracy, well-being initially decreased but subsequently recovered; by contrast, among patients with stable PU accuracy, well-being remained relatively unchanged, and among patients with decrements in PU accuracy, well-being initially improved but subsequently declined. Conclusion: Improved PU may be associated with initial decrements in psychological well-being, followed by patients rebounding to baseline levels. Concerns about lasting psychological harm may not need to be a deterrent to having prognostic discussions with patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)983-989
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


  • Prognosis
  • adaptation
  • comprehension
  • life expectancy
  • longitudinal studies
  • psychological


Dive into the research topics of 'Advanced Cancer Patients' Changes in Accurate Prognostic Understanding and Their Psychological Well-Being'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this