Quality of life and understanding of disease status among cancer patients of different ethnic origin

N. Tchen, P. Bedard, Q. L. Yi, M. Klein, D. Cella, S. Eremenco, I. F. Tannock*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Patients managed in European or North American cancer centres have a variety of ethnic backgrounds and primary languages. To gain insight into the impact of ethnic origin, we have investigated understanding of disease status and quality of life (QoL) for 202 patients. Patients completed questionnaires in their first language (52 English, 50 Chinese, 50 Italian, 50 Spanish or Portuguese), including the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy - General (FACT-G) QoL instrument, questions about disease status, expectations of cure and the language and/or type of interpretation used at initial consultation. Physicians also evaluated their status of disease and expectation of cure, and performance status was estimated by a trained health professional. The initial consultation was usually provided in English (except for 32% of Chinese-speaking patients); interpretation was provided by a family member for 34% of patients with limited English proficiency (LEP) and by a bilingual member of staff for 21%. Patients underestimated their extent of disease and overestimated their probability of cure (P = 0.001 and <0.0001, respectively). Estimates of probability of cure by the English speakers were closer to those of their physicians than the other groups (P = 0.02). English-speaking patients reported better and Italian-speaking patients poorer overall QoL (P<0.001 for Italian vs other groups). Performance status was correlated with QoL and most closely related with the extent of disease. Understanding of cultural differences is important for optimal management of patients with cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)641-647
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 18 2003


  • Ethnic origin
  • Language of consultation
  • Primary language
  • Quality of life
  • Understanding of disease status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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