Background: In the past years, interest in patient treatment preferences is growing. Our objectives were: (1) to assess and compare the minimal required benefit for patients with cancer, patients without cancer and healthcare professionals to make chemotherapy acceptable and (2) to obtain insight into attitudes towards societal costs of cancer treatment.
Patients and methods: We performed a prospective survey consisting of hypothetical scenarios among patients with cancer, patients without cancer and healthcare professionals. Participants were asked to indicate the minimal desired benefit in terms of chance of cure, life prolongation and symptom relief which would make intensive and mild chemotherapy regimens acceptable. In two other scenarios, attitudes towards monthly costs for chemotherapy treatment were examined.
Results: The minimal benefit required to make chemotherapy acceptable did not differ between cancer and non-cancer patients, with respect to chance of cure (mean 57%), life prolongation (median 24 months) and symptom relief (mean 50%); healthcare providers were likely to accept the same chemotherapy regimen at lower thresholds (p < 0.01). Education level was an important explanatory variable and the differences between patients and healthcare professionals disappeared when corrected for education level. Opinions about the maximum acceptable costs for chemotherapy displayed a large spread between the groups.
Conclusions: Minimal benefits to accept chemotherapy were not different between cancer and non-cancer patients, but are beyond what can generally can be achieved. Healthcare professionals were willing to accept chemotherapy for less benefit. This difference may be attributed to a difference in education level between the groups. Healthcare professionals rated the maximum acceptable societal cost for chemotherapy lower than patients.