Objective Adequate knowledge of prognosis is a prerequisite for planning appropriate end-of-life (EOL) care. However, questions remain about whether the association between prognostic understanding and EOL-care intensity reflects terminally ill cancer patients' preferences for EOL care. This study investigated the associations between accurate prognostic understanding and EOL-care preferences, and identified correlates of accurate prognostic understanding. Methods A cross-sectional survey of 2452 terminally ill cancer patients from 23 hospitals throughout Taiwan. Results Nearly half the participants (49.80%) accurately understood their prognosis. These patients were significantly more likely to prefer comfort-oriented care as their goal for EOL care, but less likely to prefer life-prolonging treatments. Accurately understanding prognosis decreased the likelihood of preferring intensive care unit care, cardiac pulmonary resuscitation, cardiac massage, intubation, and mechanical ventilation support, but increased preference for hospice care. Participants were significantly more likely to accurately understand their prognosis if they were male, younger, better educated, with a stronger preference for physicians to disclose their prognosis to them, and receiving care at a hospital accredited as a medical center and in northwest Taiwan. The likelihood of accurate prognostic understanding was lower for patients recently (≤12 months) diagnosed with cancers with better prognosis and hematologic malignancies than for lung cancer patients. Conclusions Accurately understanding prognosis is associated with fewer preferences for life-sustaining treatments and is correlated with both patient and institutional characteristics. Interventions should be developed to improve accurate prognostic understanding, thus facilitating informed EOL-care decisions that may limit the use of aggressive interventions.
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