Open Access Open Badges Research article

Does knowledge of cancer diagnosis affect quality of life? A methodological challenge

Ali Montazeri12*, David J Hole2, Robert Milroy3, James McEwen2 and Charles R Gillis2

Author Affiliations

1 Iranian Institute for Health Sciences Research, Tehran, Iran

2 Public Health and Health Policy, Division of Community Based Sciences,University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, UK

3 Department of Respiratory Medicine, Stobhill NHS Trust, Glasgow, Scotland, UK

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BMC Cancer 2004, 4:21  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-4-21

Published: 19 May 2004



As part of an assessment of quality of life in lung cancer patients an investigation was carried out to examine whether the knowledge of their diagnosis affected their quality of life.


Every patient in a defined geographical area with a potential diagnosis of lung cancer was interviewed at first consultation and after a definitive treatment has been given. Quality of life was assessed using three standard measures: the Nottingham Health Profile (NHP), the EORTC quality of life questionnaire (QLQ-C30) and its lung cancer supplementary questionnaire (QLQ-LC13). Comparison was made in quality of life scores between patients who knew their cancer diagnosis and those who did not.


In all, 129 lung cancer patients were interviewed. Of these, 30 patients (23%) knew and 99 (78%) did not know their cancer diagnosis at the time of baseline assessment. The patient groups were similar in their characteristics except for age (P = 0.04) and cell type (P < 0.0001). Overall, there were no significant differences between these two groups with regard to their scores on the three instruments used. A major finding was that both group scored almost the same on emotional reactions (P = 0.8) and social isolation (P = 1.0) as measured by the NHP, and emotional (P = 0.7) and social functioning (P = 1.0) as measured by the EORTC QLQ-C30. In addition there were no significant differences in patients' symptom scores between those who knew their diagnosis and those who did not, nor did any consistent pattern emerge. The only significant difference was for sleep difficulties (P = 0.02).


The findings suggest that the knowledge of cancer diagnosis does not affect the way in which patients respond to quality of life questionnaires.