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Featured Clinical Reviews

Perspectives on Care at the Close of Life
July 2, 2003

Complexities in Prognostication in Advanced Cancer: "To Help Them Live Their Lives the Way They Want to"

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Sections of General Internal Medicine and Hematology-Oncology, Department of Medicine, and the Cancer Research Center, University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill (Dr Lamont); Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, and Palliative Care Service, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston (Dr Christakis).

JAMA. 2003;290(1):98-104. doi:10.1001/jama.290.1.98

Predicting survival and disclosing the prediction to patients with advanced disease, particularly cancer, is among the most difficult tasks that physicians face. With the de-emphasis of prognosis in favor of diagnosis and therapeutics in the medical literature, physicians may have difficulty finding the survival information they need to make appropriate estimates of survival for patients who develop cancer. Quite separate from the challenge of estimating survival accurately, physicians may also find the process of disclosing the prognosis to their patients difficult. Using the vignette of a real patient with advanced cancer who far outlived her physician's prognostic estimate, we discuss clinical issues related to the science of prognosis in advanced cancer and the art of its disclosure.

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