Background: In the treatment of advanced cancer, a physician's ability to accurately identify a patient's attitude towards treatment is critical. This paper describes the extent of any differences observed between patient attitudes towards chemotherapy for advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) as assessed by patients themselves versus their physicians. Patients and methods: Patients with stage IIIB or IV NSCLC who received gemcitabine plus cisplatin or carboplatin were enrolled into this prospective observational study. Patients and their physicians completed questionnaires containing descriptions of seven patient-specific attitudes. A pre-defined algorithm was used to categorize patients into one of the three 'need' categories based on the questionnaire responses: (A) "maximum extension of survival with acceptance of high toxicity", (B) "maximum extension of survival only if coupled with normal life style", and (C) "relief of symptoms". Each patient was categorized based on his own response, as well as his physician's response. Results: A total of 1895 patients were enrolled from 19 countries across 3 continents. Data from 1884 patients were analysed. Based on patient versus physician responses, respectively, the distribution of patients was 60% versus 39% in need category A, 26% versus 33% in B, and 14% versus 29% in C. Patient self-assessed versus physician-assessed need category identification was aligned for 891 patients (47.3%): 541 (29%) in A, 218 (12%) in B, 132 (7%) in C. While there was slight agreement between the identification of 'need' categories by physicians and patients (kappa = 0.18, 95% CI: 0.15-0.21), physicians also tended to place patients further down the scale (towards C) than patients placed themselves (P < 0.001). Conclusions: Patients have varying needs from cancer chemotherapy and it may not always be correctly identified by the treating physician. Physicians may underestimate patient's desire for extended survival compared with symptom relief.
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