Someone to live for: Social well-being, parenthood status, and decision-making in oncology

Suzanne B. Yellen*, David F. Cella

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations


Purpose: Little is known about the influence of social factors on treatment preferences and desire for aggressive cancer therapy. The present study assessed subjective and objective social indicators in patient preferences for treatment. Methods: Cancer patients (N = 296) with diverse diagnoses and stages read sets of hypothetical vignettes describing patients with early-stage and advanced disease. In the first set, patients made decisions about treatment acceptance given varying levels of either increasing cure or extending survival. In the second set, the point at which patients shifted preferences from mild to severe treatment to improve likelihood of 1-year survival (switch point) was the dependent measure. We assessed the impact of quality-of-life (QL) domains measured by the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-General (FACT-G), having children, marital status, and living arrangements on treatment preferences and switch points. Results: The Social Well-Being (SWB) subscale of the FACT-G predicted both treatment acceptance (P = .007) and switch point (P = .043) in the advanced-disease vignettes, with lower SWB associated with less aggressive preferences. Children living at home was likewise associated with more aggressive intent both in treatment preferences (P = .003, advanced-disease vignette) and switch point (P < .001 and P = .001 for early- and advanced-disease vignettes, respectively). Living with others predicted more aggressive intent in the advanced-disease vignette (P = .03). Marital status did not predict either treatment acceptance or switch point. Conclusion: Positive social well-being, as well as having children living at home, predicted patient willingness to accept aggressive treatment. Willingness to receive aggressive treatment may explain or mediate previously reported salutory effects of social support on cancer out-comes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1255-1264
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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