Hope and advance care planning in advanced cancer: Is there a relationship?

Michael G. Cohen, Andrew D. Althouse, Robert M. Arnold, Hailey W. Bulls, Douglas B. White, Edward Chu, Margaret Q. Rosenzweig, Kenneth J. Smith, Yael Schenker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Clinicians often cite a fear of giving up hope as a reason they defer advance care planning (ACP) among patients with advanced cancer. The objective of this study was to determine whether engagement in ACP affects hope in these patients. Methods: This was a secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial of primary palliative care in advanced cancer. Patients who had not completed ACP at baseline were included in the analysis. ACP was assessed in the forms of an end-of-life (EOL) conversation with one's oncologist and completion of a living will or advance directive (AD). Measurements were obtained at baseline and at 3 months. Hope was measured using the Herth Hope Index (HHI) (range, 12-48; higher scores indicate higher hope). Multivariate regression was performed to assess associations between ACP and hope, controlling for baseline HHI score, study randomization, patient age, religious importance, education, marital status, socioeconomic status, time since cancer diagnosis, pain/symptom burden (Edmonton Symptom Assessment System), and anxiety/depression score (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale)—all variables known to be associated with ACP and/or hope. Results: In total, 672 patients with advanced cancer were enrolled in the overall study. The mean age was 69 ± 10 years, and the most common cancer types were lung cancer (36%), gastrointestinal cancer (20%) and breast/gynecologic cancers (16%). In this group, 378 patients (56%) had not had an EOL conversation at baseline, of whom 111 of 378 (29%) reported having an EOL conversation by 3 months. Hope was not different between patients who did or did not have an EOL conversation over the study period (mean ± standard deviation ∆HHI, 0.20 ± 5.32 vs −0.53 ± 3.80, respectively; P =.136). After multivariable adjustment, hope was significantly increased in patients who had engaged in an EOL conversation (adjusted mean difference in ∆HHI, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.08-1.82; P =.032). Similarly, of 216 patients (32%) without an AD at baseline, 67 (31%) had subsequently completed an AD. Unadjusted hope was not different between those who did and did not complete an AD (∆HHI, 0.20 ± 3.89 vs −0.91 ± 4.50, respectively; P =.085). After adjustment, hope was significantly higher in those who completed an AD (adjusted mean difference in ∆HHI, 1.31; 95% CI, 0.13-2.49; P =.030). Conclusions: The current results demonstrate that hope is not decreased after engagement in ACP and indeed may be increased. These findings may provide reassurance to clinicians who are apprehensive about having these important and difficult conversations. Lay Summary: Many oncologists defer advance care planning (ACP) out of concern for giving up hope. This study demonstrates that hope is not decreased in patients who have engaged in ACP either as a conversation with their oncologists or by completing an advance directive. With this information, providers may feel more comfortable having these important conversations with their patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1339-1345
Number of pages7
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2022


  • advance care planning
  • advance directive
  • end of life
  • hope
  • palliative care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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